Fodor's Germany - Fodor's (2016)
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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning
Updated by Dan Allen
The banks of the Rhine are crowned by magnificent castle after castle and by breathtaking, vine-terraced hills that provide the livelihood for many of the villages hugging the shores. In the words of French poet Victor Hugo, “The Rhine combines everything. The Rhine is swift as the Rhône, wide as the Loire, winding as the Seine … royal as the Danube and covered with fables and phantoms like a river in Asia.”
The importance of the Rhine can hardly be overestimated. Although not the longest river in Europe (the Danube is more than twice as long), the Rhine has been the main river-trade artery between the heart of the continent and the North Sea (and Atlantic Ocean) throughout recorded history. The Rhine runs 1,230 km (764 miles) from the Bodensee (Lake Constance) west to Basel, then north through Germany, and, finally, west through the Netherlands to Rotterdam.
Vineyards, a legacy of the Romans, are an inherent part of the Rhine landscape from Wiesbaden to Bonn. The Rhine tempers the climate sufficiently for grapes to ripen this far north, and the world’s finest Rieslings come from the Rheingau and from the Rhine’s most important tributary, the Mosel. Thanks to the river, these wines were shipped far beyond the borders of Germany, giving rise to the wine trade that shaped the fortune of many riverside towns. Rüdesheim, Bingen, Koblenz, and Köln (Cologne) remain important commercial wine centers to this day.
The river is steeped in legend and myth. The Loreley, a jutting sheer slate cliff, was once believed to be the home of a beautiful and bewitching maiden who lured boatmen to a watery end in the swift currents. Heinrich Heine’s poem Song of Loreley (1827), inspired by Clemens Brentano’s Legend of Loreley (1812) and set to music in 1837 by Friedrich Silcher, has been the theme song of the landmark ever since. The Nibelungen, a legendary Burgundian people said to have lived on the banks of the Rhine, serve as subjects for Wagner’s epic opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (1852-72).
William Turner captured misty Rhine sunsets on canvas. Famous literary works, such as Goethe’s Sankt-Rochus-Fest zu Bingen (The Feast of St. Roch; 1814), Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1816), and Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad (1880), captured the spirit of Rhine Romanticism on paper, encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Drachenfels: This dramatic castle in Königswinter crowns a high hill overlooking the Rhine.
Fastnacht: Germany’s Carnival season culminates with huge parades, round-the-clock music, and dancing in Düsseldorf, Köln, and Mainz the week before Ash Wednesday.
Rhine in Flames: These massive displays of fireworks take place the first Saturday in May in Linz-Bonn; the first Saturday in July in Bingen-Rüdesheim; the second Saturday in August in Koblenz; the second Saturday in September in Oberwesel; and the third Saturday in September in St. Goar.
The romance of the Rhine: From cruises to Rhine-view rooms, castles to terraced vineyards, the Rhine does not disappoint.
Spectacular wine: A whole culinary tradition has grown up around the distinctive light white wines of the Rhine and Mosel.
The most spectacular stretch of the Rhineland is along the Middle Rhine, between Mainz and Koblenz, which takes in the awesome castles and vineyards of the Rhine Gorge. Highways hug the river on each bank (B-42 on the north and eastern sides, and B-9 on the south and western sides), and car ferries crisscross the Rhine at many points. Cruises depart from many cities and towns, including as far south as Frankfurt. Trains service all the towns, and the Mainz-Bonn route provides river views all the way.
The Rheingau. Though the course of the Rhine is generally south to north, it bends sharply at Wiesbaden and flows east to west for 31 km (19 miles) to Rüdesheim. This means that the steep hills on its right bank have a southern exposure, and that vineyards there produce superb wines.
The Mittelrhein. The romance of the Rhine is most apparent in the Middle Rhine, from Bingen to Koblenz. The 65-km (40-mile) stretch of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002 with its concentration of awesome castles, medieval towns, and the vineyards of the Rhine Gorge.
The Mosel Valley. Koblenz and Trier aren’t very far apart as the crow flies, but the driving distance along the incredible twists and turns of the Mosel River is 201 km (125 miles). The journey is worth it, though. The region is unspoiled, the towns gemlike, the scenery a medley of vineyards and forests, and there’s a wealth of Roman artifacts, medieval churches, and castle ruins to admire.
Bonn and the Köln (Cologne) lowlands. North of Koblenz, the Rhine is less picturesque, but it does shoulder the cosmopolitan cities Köln and Düsseldorf, as well as the former capital city of Bonn.
WHEN TO GO
The peak season for cultural, food, and wine festivals is March-mid-November, followed by colorful Christmas markets in December. The season for many hotels, restaurants, riverboats, cable cars, and sights is from Easter through October, particularly in smaller towns. Opening hours at many castles, churches, and small museums are shorter in winter. Orchards blossom in March, and the vineyards are verdant from May until late September, when the vines turn a shimmering gold.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
The Rhineland is served by three international airports: Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, and Köln-Bonn. Bus and rail lines connect each airport with its respective downtown area and provide rapid access to the rest of the region. There are direct trains from the Frankfurt airport to downtown Köln and Düsseldorf.
No-frills carriers that fly within Europe are based at smaller Frankfurt-Hahn Airport in Lautzenhausen, between the Rhine and Mosel valleys (a one-hour drive from Wiesbaden or Trier; a 90-minute bus ride from Frankfurt Airport). The Luxembourg Findel International Airport (a 30-minute drive from Trier) is close to the upper Mosel River valley.
Flughafen Düsseldorf. | 0211/4210 | www.dus.com.
Flughafen Frankfurt. | 01806/372-4636 | www.frankfurt-airport.com.
Flughafen Frankfurt-Hahn. | 06543/509-200 | www.hahn-airport.de.
Flughafen Köln/Bonn. | 02203/404-001 | www.koeln-bonn-airport.de.
Luxembourg Findel International Airport. | 00352/24640 | www.lux-airport.lu.
While the fastest way to get around the region is by car or train, the Rhine and Mosel Rivers have been navigated by ship for thousands of years, and this option remains the most scenic, not to mention the safest for visitors looking to drink wine while soaking up a little history. The Rhine is the more popular of the two rivers, but many find its little sister, the Mosel, even more beautiful with its narrow, twisting landscapes.
Many Rhine trips are available from Köln and Düsseldorf, but the river doesn’t truly turn scenic until south of Bonn. The most popular starting point is Koblenz, where the Rhine and Mosel converge. The area between Koblenz and Bingen, the Rhine Gorge, offers the shortest cruises with the highest concentration of castles.
Trips along the Rhine and Mosel range in length from a few hours to days or weeks. Day-trippers don’t generally need advance reservations, and the tourist offices in any major Rhine or Mosel town can provide information about short round-trip cruises (Rundfahrten) or hop-on/hop-off waterbuses (Linienfahrten), which generally run on the Rhine daily from Easter to late October and on the Mosel from June through September. Some multiday cruises also make extra trips in November and December to stop at Christmas markets.
Europe’s largest river cruise line, this French company offers numerous affordable multiday cabin cruises on both the Rhine and Mosel. | 800/768-7232 in U.S. | www.croisieuroperivercruises.com.
A variety of multiday luxury cabin cruises are offered on both the Rhine and Mosel. | 800/257-2407 in U.S. | www.uniworld.com.
Viking River Cruises.
Multiday luxury cabin cruises sail between Amsterdam and Basel and between Basel and Paris. | 800/706-1483 in U.S. | www.vikingrivercruises.com.
Short Loreley and castle cruises along the Middle Rhine are available, plus ferry service between Bingen and Rüdesheim. | 06721/14140 | www.bingen-ruedesheimer.de.
Köln-Düsseldorfer Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt (KD Rhine Line).
One of the region’s most popular short-journey lines, this company offers day trips and water taxi service on the Rhine and Main between Köln and Mainz, and on the Mosel between Koblenz and Cochem. There’s a 20% discount for German Rail Pass holders. | 0221/208-8318 | www.k-d.com.
Mosel-Schiffstouristic Hans Michels.
Short cruises on the middle Mosel mostly begin at Bernkastel and last about two hours. | 06531/8222 | www.mosel-personenschifffahrt.de.
Cruising mostly shorter stretches of the Mosel between Koblenz and Trier, Kolb also offers day trips and combination tickets that include city tours on land. | 02673/1515 | www.moselfahrplan.de.
Castle cruises on the Rhine run from Koblenz to Schloss Stolzenfels (60 mins) or to the Marksburg (100 mins). | 0261/76810 | www.merkelbach-personenschiffe.de.
Frankfurt-originating short cruises call at the Loreley and Rüdesheim/St. Goarshausen. | 069/133-8370 | www.primus-linie.de.
This is a Koblenz-based line, with regular short Rhine cruises to Rüdesheim. | 0261/37744 | www.hoelzenbein.de.
Rhine castle and Loreley day cruises depart from Rüdesheim. | 06722/2353 | www.roesslerlinie.de.
InterCity and EuroCity expresses connect all the cities and towns of the area. Hourly InterCity routes run between Düsseldorf, Köln, Bonn, and Mainz, with most services extending as far south as Munich and as far north as Hamburg. German Rail Passes are valid on these and all Deutsche Bahn trains; passes come in many configurations and include Rhineland-specific bonuses like discounts on KD Rhine Line cruises. The city transportation networks of Bonn, Köln, and Düsseldorf are linked by S-bahn, regional, and local trains (for information contact the KVB).
Deutsche Bahn. | 01806/996-633 | www.bahn.de.
German Rail Pass. | www.germanrailpasses.com.
Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe (KVB). | 01806/504-030 | www.kvb-koeln.de.
Although Düsseldorf, Köln, and Wiesbaden are home to many talented chefs, some of Germany’s most creative classic and contemporary cooking is found in smaller towns or country inns.
The most romantic places to lay your head are the old riverside inns and castle hotels. Ask for a Rheinblick (Rhine-view) room. Hotels are often booked well in advance, especially for festivals and when there are trade fairs in Köln, Düsseldorf, or Frankfurt, making rooms even in Wiesbaden and the Rheingau scarce and expensive. Many hotels close for winter.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
Those seeking “Rhine romance” should probably concentrate on its southern part, particularly the Rhine Gorge, with its castles, vineyards, and the Loreley. If nightlife and culture are your preferences, you’ll like the cathedral city of Köln and cosmopolitan Düsseldorf; you can still take a day cruise along the Rhine from Köln.
Rheingau-Taunus Kultur & Tourismus. | Pfortenhaus-Kloster Eberbach | Eltville | 06723/99550 | www.kulturland-rheingau.de.
Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus. | Löhrstr. 103-105 | Koblenz | 01805/757-4636 | www.romantic-germany.info.
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Wiesbaden | Eltville | Oestrich-Winkel | Rüdesheim
The heart of the region begins in Wiesbaden, where the Rhine makes a sharp bend and flows east to west for some 30 km (19 miles) before resuming its south to north course at Rüdesheim. Wiesbaden is a good starting point for touring any of the well-marked cycling, hiking, and driving routes through the Rheingau’s villages and vineyards. TIP Nearly every Rheingau village has an outdoor Weinprobierstand (wine-tasting stand), usually near the riverbank. It is staffed and stocked by a different wine estate every weekend in summer.
What to Eat in the Rhineland
The Rhineland’s regional cuisine features fresh fish and Wild (game), as well as sauces and soups based on the local Riesling and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) wines. Boiled beef, once known in the region as Tellerfleisch (“dish meat”) or Ochsenbrust (brisket), is nowadays called by the more familiar Austrian name Tafelspitz. Rheinischer Sauerbraten (Rhenish marinated pot roast in a sweet-and-sour raisin gravy) is another traditional favorite. The Kartoffel (potato) is prominent in soups, Reibekuchen and Rösti (potato pancakes), and Dibbe- or Dippekuchen (dialect: Döppekoche), a casserole baked in a cast-iron pot and served with apple compote. Himmel und Erde, literally “heaven and earth,” is a mixture of mashed potatoes and chunky applesauce, topped with panfried slices of blood sausage and onions.
The region is known for its wines: Riesling is the predominant white grape, and Spätburgunder the most important red variety in the Rheingau, Mittelrhein, and Mosel wine regions. Three abutting wine regions—Rheinhessen and the Nahe, near Bingen, and the Ahr, southwest of Bonn—add to the variety of wines available along the route.
Wines of Germany, aka the German Wine Institute, provides background information and brochures about all German wine-producing regions. Tips on wine-related events and package offers are available from regional wine-information offices, and any visitor-information center along the Rhine and Mosel will put you in touch with local winegrowers.
Wines of Germany.
| 212/994-7523 | www.germanwineusa.com, www.germanwines.de.
40 km (25 miles) west of Frankfurt.
Wiesbaden, the capital of the state of Hesse, is a small city of tree-lined avenues with elegant shops and handsome facades. Its hot mineral springs have been a drawing card since the days when it was known as Aquis Mattiacis (“the waters of the Mattiaci”)—the words boldly inscribed on the portal of the Kurhaus—and Wisibada (“the bath in the meadow”).
In the 1st century AD the Romans built thermal baths here, a site then inhabited by a Germanic tribe, the Mattiaci. Modern Wiesbaden dates from the 19th century, when the dukes of Nassau and, later, the Prussian aristocracy commissioned the grand public buildings and parks that shape the city’s profile today. Wiesbaden developed into a fashionable spa that attracted the rich and the famous. Their ornate villas on the Neroberg and turn-of-the-20th-century town houses are part of the city’s flair.
Getting Here and Around
If you’re driving, take the A-66 from Frankfurt.
For a one-hour ride through the city, board this little train. A one-day ticket enables you to get on and off as often as you like to explore the sights. From April through October, and late November to mid-December, it departs numerous times daily, 10-4:30, from Café Lumen (behind the Marktkirche), and stops at the Greek Chapel and the Neroberg train station. In March and November it operates on weekends. | 0611/5893-9464 | www.thermine.de | €8 for all-day ticket.
English-language guided walking tours of Wiesbaden lasting about 90 minutes depart from the tourist-information office every Saturday at 2, June through September. | €9.
Wiesbaden Tourist-Information. | Marktpl. 1 | 0611/172-9930 | www.wiesbaden.eu.
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Called Schiffchen (Little Ship) for its boatlike shape, Wiesbaden’s pretty Old Town is packed with restaurants, cafés, shops, and goldsmith workshops. It’s located just behind the Stadtschloss (a former duke’s palace, now the seat of state parliament, the Hessischer Landtag) on Grabenstrasse, Wagemannstrasse, and Goldgasse. | Wiesbaden.
Fodor’s Choice | Kurhaus.
Built in 1907, the neoclassical Kurhaus is the cultural center of town. It houses the casino and the Thiersch-Saal, a splendid setting for concerts. The Staatstheater (1894), opulently appointed in baroque and rococo revival styles, and two beautifully landscaped parks flank the Kurhaus. | Kurhauspl. 1 | www.wiesbaden.de/kurhaus.
Fifteen of Wiesbaden’s 26 springs converge at the steaming Kochbrunnen Fountain, where the sulfurous but at least theoretically healthful waters are there for the tasting. | Kochbrunnenpl.
Marktplatz (Market Square).
Historic buildings ring the Schlossplatz (Palace Square) and the adjoining Marktplatz, site of the annual Rheingau Wine Festival (mid-August) and Christmas market (December). The farmers’ market (Wednesday and Saturday) takes place behind the neo-Gothic brick Marktkirche (Market Church). | Marktpl.
Nature and culture come together under one roof at the Museum Wiesbaden. The natural history section exhibits a wealth of geological finds and preserved animals, and the art collection ranges from 12th-century polychromes to present-day installations. The museum is best known for its expressionist paintings, particularly the works of Russian artist Alexej Jawlensky. | Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 2 | 0611/335-2250 | www.museum-wiesbaden.de | €6 | Tues. and Thurs. 10-8, Wed. and Fri.-Sun. 10-5.
WHERE TO EAT
$$$$ | ECLECTIC | This popular bistro with a striking art nouveau interior, a grand piano (live music nightly), and a good-size bar attracts an upscale clientele. Book a table for two in one of the window alcoves (Nos. 7, 12, 25, and 29) at least four weeks in advance for some privacy among the otherwise close-set tables. Lachstatar (salmon tartare) and Bauernente (farmer’s duck) are standard favorites. A few champagnes are available by the glass and bottle. Käfer’s also caters the beer garden behind the Kurhaus and the Bowling Green’s terrace with concerts in summer. | Average main: €26 | Kurhauspl. 1 | 0611/536-200 | www.kurhaus-gastronomie.de | Reservations essential.
Sherry & Port.
$$ | ECLECTIC | Austrian expat Gerd Royko’s friendly neighborhood bistro hosts live music on Friday and Saturday from October through March. During warm months, you can dine at outdoor tables surrounding a fountain on tree-lined Adolfsallee. In addition to the fantastic number of sherries and ports (60), there are more than 20 malt whiskies served by the glass. There is also a good selection of beers and wines to accompany the menu’s tapas, salads, steaks, and well-priced daily specials. | Average main: €18 | Adolfsallee 11 | 0611/373-632 | www.sherry-und-port.de | No credit cards.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel de France.
$ | HOTEL | Behind this 1880 facade is a lovingly restored hotel and a new high-end restaurant, both with sleek, modern furnishings and lots of fresh flowers. Rooms in the front overlook a busy street, while those in the back have a view of a lovely Mediterranean-style garden courtyard. Despite being rather small, the restaurant Bruno’s Fischermanns (closed Sunday and Monday; no lunch) feels light and spacious. Pros: centrally located. Cons: on a busy street; some rooms are small. | Rooms from: €89 | Taunusstr. 49 | 0611/959-730 | www.hoteldefrance.de | 34 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.
Hotel Nassauer Hof.
$$$ | HOTEL | Wiesbaden’s premier address for well over a century boasts luxuriously appointed rooms, top-flight service, and three restaurants—and a guest list ranging from Dostoyevsky to the Dalai Lama. It’s on the site of a Roman fortress that was converted into a spa and, ultimately, a guesthouse. Pros: nice location opposite the Kurhaus; warm spring-fed pool. Cons: expensive; breakfast is not included and costs €32. | Rooms from: €215 | Kaiser-Friedrich-Pl. 3-4 | 0611/1330 | www.nassauer-hof.de | 136 rooms, 23 suites | No meals.
ibis Wiesbaden City.
$ | HOTEL | This modern hotel opposite the Kochbrunnen on Kranzplatz is an excellent value and has a location within walking distance of the shop-filled pedestrian zone, the Old Town, and all sights. The well-kept rooms have contemporary furnishings. The breakfast buffet costs €11. Pros: bar stays open 24 hours; four wheelchair-accessible rooms. Cons: small rooms; breakfast not included. | Rooms from: €65 | Georg-August-Zinn-Str. 2 | 0611/36140 | www.ibishotel.com | 131 rooms | No meals.
Fodor’s Choice | Town Hotel.
$$ | HOTEL | Its central location (a five-minute walk from the Kurhaus, Old Town, and shopping district), particularly friendly and helpful staff, and affordability make the Gerbers’ modern hotel an excellent Wiesbaden choice. Terra-cotta and beige tones and parquet floors lend the rooms warmth and, although they are small, they’re very cleverly designed for maximum use of space. Pros: a good deal; free telephone calls to North America and most of Europe. Cons: often full during the week. | Rooms from: €119 | Spiegelg. 5 | 0611/360-160 | www.townhotel.de | 24 rooms | No meals.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
In addition to the casino, restaurants, bars, and beer garden at the Kurhaus, nightlife is centered on the many bistros and pubs on Taunusstrasse and in the Old Town. The tourist office provides schedules and sells tickets for most venues listed here.
The Klassische Spiel (roulette and blackjack) in the Kurhaus is one of Europe’s grand casinos, open daily 2:45 pm to 3 am (4 am weekends, jacket required). The less formal Automatenspiel (slots and poker) in the neighboring Kolonnade is open from noon to 4 am. To enter either, you must be at least 18 (bring your passport). | Kurhauspl. 1 | 0611/536-100 | www.spielbank-wiesbaden.de.
Henkell & Co.
The sparkling-wine cellars of Henkell & Co. host a series of concerts by young classical musicians from September to March. | Biebricher Allee 142 | 0611/630 | www.henkell-sektkellerei.com.
The Hessian State Orchestra performs several programs a year at the Kurhaus. | Kurhauspl. 1 | 0611/17290.
Many churches offer concerts, including the free organ recitals that are held Saturday at 11:30 am in the Marktkirche. | Schlosspl. 4 | 0611/900-1611 | www.marktkirche-wiesbaden.de.
Classics and avant-garde films are the specialties at this theater behind the Marktkirche. | Marktpl. 9 | 0611/315-050 | www.wiesbaden.de/caligari.
Theaters and Arts Centers
Classical and contemporary opera, theater, ballet, and musicals are presented on the Hessisches Staatstheater’s four stages: Grosses Haus, Kleines Haus, Studio, and Wartburg. | Chr.-Zais-Str. 3 | 0611/132-325 | www.staatstheater-wiesbaden.de.
In addition to having an art gallery and theater, this lively multiarts venue has featured music performances, cabaret revues (sometimes performed in drag), and the occasional dance party. | Nerotal 18 | 0611/185-1267 | www.thalhaus.de.
Walhalla Studio Theater.
Live concerts (jazz, blues, rock, and pop), often accompanied by theater, are held here. | Mauritiusstr. 3a, Use entrance of movie theater Bambi Kino | 0611/910-3743 | www.walhalla-studio.de.
Broad, tree-lined Wilhelmstrasse, with designer boutiques housed in its fin de siècle buildings, is one of Germany’s most elegant shopping streets. Wiesbaden is also known as one of the best places in the country to find antiques; Taunusstrasse and Nerostrasse have excellent antiques shops. The Altstadt is full of upscale boutiques; Kirchgasse and its extension, Langgasse, are the heart of the shops-filled pedestrian zone.
Thermal Springs, Spas, and Pools
Pamper yourself with the thermal-spring and cold-water pools, various steam baths and saunas, two solaria, and a score of health- and wellness treatments in elegant art nouveau surroundings. Towels and robes can be rented on-site, but come prepared for bathing nude. Children under 16 are not admitted. On Tuesday the facility is for women only. | Langg. 38-40 | 0611/317-060 | €6.50 per hr, Sept.-Apr.; €5 per hr, May-Aug. | Sept.-Apr., Mon.-Thurs. 10-10, Fri. and Sat. 10 am-midnight; May-Aug., daily 10-10.
There’s year-round swimming indoors and out thanks to the thermal springs (32°C [90°F]) that feed the pools here. The facility includes seven saunas, a whirlpool, massage, and various other treatments. | Leibnizstr. 7 | Bus No. 18 from Wilhelmstr. to Aukamm Valley | 0611/317-080 | Pools €10, saunas €20, combined ticket €24 | Sun., Mon., Wed., and Thurs. 8 am-10 pm; Tues. 6 am-10 pm; Fri. and Sat. 8 am-midnight.
14 km (9 miles) west of Wiesbaden.
The largest town in the Rheingau, Eltville rose to prominence in the Middle Ages as the residence of the archbishops of Mainz. Today it’s cherished for its wine and roses, which are celebrated most colorfully during its Rosentage (Rose Days), held the first weekend of June.
Burg Crass (Crass Castle), located on the riverbank, is well worth a look, as are the half-timber houses and aristocratic manors on the lanes between the river and Rheingauer Strasse (B-42), notably the Bechtermünzer Hof (Kirchgasse 6), Stockheimer Hof (Ellenbogengasse 6), and Eltzer Hof (at the Martinstor gateway).
There are a number of prominent wineries in the area, and some offer tours and tastings. The Nussbrunnen, Wisselbrunnen, and Marcobrunn estates get their name from the Brunnen (wells) that are beneath the vineyards.
Getting Here and Around
Just 9 miles from Wiesbaden, via A-66 and B-42, and 12 from Mainz via A-643, Eltville is easily accessible by road, rail, or bus service via RTV (Rheingau-Taunus-Verkehrsgesellschaft).
RTV. | 06124/726-5914 | www.r-t-v.de.
Eltville Tourist Information. | Kurfürstliche Burg, Burgstr. 1 | 06123/90980 | www.eltville.de.
Fodor’s Choice | Kloster Eberbach.
The former Cistercian monastery is idyllically set in a secluded forest clearing 3 km (2 miles) west of Kiedrich. Its Romanesque and Gothic buildings (12th-14th century) look untouched by time—one reason why the 1986 film of Umberto Eco’s medieval murder mystery The Name of the Rose was filmed here. The monastery’s impressive collection of old winepresses bears witness to a viticultural tradition that spans nearly nine centuries. The wines can be sampled year-round in the Vinothek or restaurant on the grounds. The church, with its excellent acoustics, and the large medieval dormitories are the settings for concerts, wine auctions, and festive wine events. | Stiftung Kloster Eberbach | 06723/917-8115 | www.klostereberbach.de | €8 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 11-5.
Kurfürstliche Burg (Electors’ Castle).
Eltville flourished as a favorite residence of the archbishops of Mainz in the 14th and 15th centuries, and it was during this time that the castle—which now houses Eltville’s tourist-information center—was built. More than 300 varieties of roses grow in the castle’s courtyard garden, on the wall, and along the Rhine promenade. During “Rose Days” (the first weekend in June) the flower is celebrated in shops and restaurants (as an ingredient in recipes) throughout town. | Burgstr. 1 | 06123/909-840 | www.eltville.de | Tower €3, rose garden free | Tower: Apr.-Oct., Mon., Tues., and Thurs. 10-1 and 2-5, Wed. 2-5, Fri. 10-1 and 2-6, weekends 10-6. Garden: Apr.-Sept., daily 9:30-7; Oct.-March, daily 10-5.
For a good look at the central Rheingau, make a brief circular tour from Eltville. Drive 3 km (2 miles) north via the Kiedricher Strasse to the Gothic village of Kiedrich. In the distance you can see the tower of Scharfenstein Castle (built in 1215) and the spires of St. Valentine’s Basilica and St. Michael’s Chapel, both from the 15th century. If you attend the basilica’s 9:30 am mass on Sunday, you can admire the splendid Gothic furnishings and star vaulting to the sounds of Gregorian chants and one of Germany’s oldest organs, and public tours of the church begin just after every mass. The chapel next door, once a charnel house (a building near a cemetery used for storing dug-up bones), has a unique chandelier sculpted around a nearly life-size, two-sided Madonna. These Gothic gems have survived intact thanks to 19th-century restorations sponsored by the English baronet John Sutton.
Weingut Robert Weil.
Built by the English aristrocrat John Sutton, this beautiful villa south of St. Valentine’s Church is home to one of Germany’s leading wine estates. Its famed Rieslings can be sampled in the tasting room. | Mühlberg 5 | Kiedrich | 06123/2308 | www.weingut-robert-weil.com | Weekdays 8-5:30, Sat. 10-5, Sun. 11-5.
Sts. Peter and Paul.
The parish church of Saints Peter and Paul has late-Gothic frescoes, Renaissance tombstones, and a carved baptismal likely created by the Rhenish sculptor Hans Backoffen. | Roseng.
Kloster Eberbach’s premier vineyard, the high-tech Steinberg, is surrounded by a 3-km (2-mile) stone wall (13th-18th century). In warmer months you can enjoy its vintages outdoors, overlooking the vines. | Domäne Steinberg | From Eberbach, take the road toward Hattenheim, stopping at the first right-hand turnoff | www.kloster-eberbach.de/en/wine-estate/das-weingut-seine-domaenen/domaene-steinberg.html | Wine cellar tour €10, includes three tastings | Guided wine cellar tour Apr.-Oct., weekends at 1 and 3; Nov.-Mar., Sun. at 2.
WHERE TO EAT
Gutsausschank im Baiken.
$$ | GERMAN | This restaurant is on a hilltop amid the Rauenthaler Baiken vineyard. The panorama from the vine-canopied terrace, the regional cooking, and local wines make for a complete “Rheingau Riesling” experience. | Average main: €20 | Wiesweg 86 | 06123/900-345 | www.baiken.de | Closed Feb. and Mon.; also closed Tues. and Wed. Nov.-Mar. No lunch Tues.-Sat.
Klosterschänke und Gästehaus Kloster Eberbach.
$$ | GERMAN | Beneath the vaulted ceiling of the Klosterschänke you can pair local wines with regional cuisine. Try the Weinfleisch (pork goulash in Riesling sauce) or Zisterzienser Brot, which translates to “Cistercian bread” (minced meat in a plum-and-bacon dressing with boiled potatoes). | Average main: €16 | Kloster Eberbach | Via Kiedrich or Hattenheim | 06723/993-299 | www.klostereberbach.de | No credit cards.
Fodor’s Choice | Kronenschlösschen.
$$$$ | FRENCH | The young chef here, who received a Michelin star in 2014, carries on the acclaimed culinary traditions that made this stylish and intimate art nouveau house one of the Rheingau’s top restaurants. The wine list focuses on the finest local estates for whites, and Old and New World estates for reds. In warmer months, you can also enjoy sensational fish creations in the parklike garden. | Average main: €32 | Rheinallee | At Hattenheim | 06723/640 | www.kronenschloesschen.de | No lunch.
$$$$ | GERMAN | A palace in every sense of the word, this hotel and wine estate overlooks the Rhine and beautifully landscaped gardens. Antiques and artwork fill the house. You can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea with Rieslingtorte in the airy, glass-lined Wintergarten. Upscale dinners are served in the elegant Prinzess von Erbach. The less pricey Schloss Schänke, located in the winery courtyard, serves light fare and hearty snacks. The estate’s wines are also sold daily in the Vinothek. | Average main: €32 | Hauptstr. 41 | In Erbach | 06123/6760 | www.kempinski.com/en/eltville.
$$$ | GERMAN | Winegrower Josef Laufer more than lives up to the hospitality promised by the wreath and Krug (an earthenware pitcher) hanging above the front door. The wood-paneled restaurant, with its old tiled stove, is cozy. The German fare includes wild duck, goose, game, or sauerbraten served in rich, flavorful sauces and gravies. The wine list is legendary for its scope (600 Rheingau wines) and selection of older vintages. In 2011, the former Hattenheim City Hall became part of Zum Krug’s Rheingau-themed inn, nearly doubling its rooms to 15. | Average main: €23 | Hauptstr. 34 | In Hattenheim | 06723/99680 | www.hotel-zum-krug.de | Closed 4 wks in Dec. and Jan. and 2 wks in July and Aug.
WHERE TO STAY
Weinhotel Hof Bechtermünz.
$$ | HOTEL | Set within a 15th-century structure on Eltville’s Weingut Koegler complex, Weinhotel Hof Bechtermünz brings modern style to its historic setting (Johannes Gutenberg printed the world’s first dictionary here in 1467). The rooms (including six new in 2014) are individually designed, and overseen by the charming Koegler family. The wine cellar is noted for its Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, and Pinot Noir, while the Weingut’s restaurant serves Rheingau specialties like Handkäs (hand-formed sour milk cheese). From Easter to October there’s a lovely rose garden. Pros: historic and central setting; delicious wine selection. Cons: no air-conditioning. | Rooms from: €140 | Kirchg. 5 | 06123/2437 | www.weingut-koegler.de/weinhotel | No credit cards | 16 rooms | Breakfast.
21 km (13 miles) west of Wiesbaden, 7 km (4½ miles) west of Eltville.
Oestrich’s vineyard area is the largest in the Rheingau. Lenchen and Doosberg are the most important vineyards. You can sample the wines at the outdoor wine-tasting stand, opposite the 18th-century wine-loading crane on the riverbank of Oestrich (nearly opposite Hotel Schwan).
Getting Here and Around
By road from Wiesbaden or Eltville go west on B-42.
The village of Winkel (pronounced vin-kle) lies west of Oestrich. A Winkeler Hasensprung wine from the 1811 vintage was Goethe’s wine of choice during his stay here with the Brentano family in 1814. The Brentanohaus’s Goethe Zimmer (Goethe Room), with mementos and furnishings from Goethe’s time, is open to the public a few times a year, or by appointment. | Am Lindenpl. 2 | 06723/2068 | www.brentano.de | €8 | By appointment, or check website for infrequent open hrs.
Fodor’s Choice | Schloss Johannisberg.
The origins of this grand wine estate date from 1100, when Benedictine monks built a monastery and planted vines on the slopes below. The striking early-18th-century palace is closed to the public, but guided tours (by appointment) explore the winery and its remarkable cellars, and there are also tastings at the estate’s restaurant. | Weinbaudomäne Schloss Johannisberg | Geisenheim | From Winkel, turn off main street at Schillerstr. and drive north all the way uphill. After the road curves to the left, watch for the left turn to the castle | 06722/70090 | www.schloss-johannisberg.de | Wineshop: Mar., Apr., and Oct., weekdays 10-6, weekends 11-6; May-Sept., weekdays 10-6, weekends 11-7; Nov.-Feb., weekdays 10-6, weekends 11-5.
Fodor’s Choice | Schloss Vollrads.
Built in 1211, Schloss Vollrads is the oldest of Germany’s major wine estates. The tower, built in 1330 and surrounded by a moat, was the Greiffenclau residence for 350 years until the present palace was built in the 17th century. There is a wineshop, and the castle’s period rooms can be toured during concerts, festivals, and wine tastings. It’s 3 km (2 miles) north of town. | Vollradser Allee | North on Kirchstr., continue on Vollradser Allee | 06723/6626 | www.schlossvollrads.com | Apr.-Oct., weekdays 9-6, weekends 11-7; Nov.-Mar., weekdays 9-5, weekends 11-4.
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | GERMAN | Beate and Florian Kreller give you a warm welcome to their historic building on Winkel’s Hauptstrasse (main street). Local dishes are the specialty, with emphasis placed on fresh, local ingredients in season. Their fixed-price lunch (€9.50 for two courses and €11 for three) is a good deal. Fresh flowers and candles top the tables set in a labyrinth of cozy niches with exposed beams and old stone walls. No less inviting is the pretty courtyard. | Average main: €15 | Hauptstr. 70 | Winkel | 06723/7426 | www.die-wirtschaft.net | No credit cards | Closed Mon. and 2 wks in July and Aug. No dinner Sun.
Fodor’s Choice | Gutsrestaurant Schloss Vollrads.
$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | The seasonal German and light Mediterranean dishes on the menu are served with the estate’s wines in the cavalier house (1650) or on the flower-lined terrace facing the garden. | Average main: €20 | Schloss Vollrads, Vollradser Allee, north of Winkel | 06723/660 | www.schlossvollrads.com/restaurant.html | Closed late Dec.-Apr. Closed Mon. and Tues. Nov.-mid-Dec., and Wed. May-Oct.
Gutsschänke Schloss Johannisberg.
$$ | GERMAN | The glassed-in terrace affords a spectacular view of the Rhine and the vineyards where the wine you’re drinking originated. Rheingau Riesling soup and Bauernente (farmer’s duck) are among the house specialties. | Average main: €20 | Schloss Johannisberg | Geisenheim | 06722/96090 | www.schloss-johannisberg.de | Reservations essential.
WHERE TO STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Schwan.
$ | B&B/INN | Owned by the Wenckstern family since it was built in 1628, this green-and-white half-timber inn offers considerable comfort, though the rooms in the guesthouse are simpler than in the historic main building. Many rooms have a Rhine view (Nos. 103, 106, 107, and 108 are especially nice), as does the beautiful terrace. The staff is friendly and helpful, and you can sample the family’s wines in the cavernous wine cellar and in the restaurant, which has a lovely terrace. Pros: nice location right at the 18th-century crane on the river; outdoor wine stands. Cons: rooms in the guesthouse are plain. | Rooms from: €89 | Rheinallee 5 | In Oestrich | 06723/8090 | www.hotel-schwan.de | 52 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.
30 km (19 miles) west of Wiesbaden, 9 km (5½ miles) west of Oestrich-Winkel.
Tourism and wine are the heart and soul of Rüdesheim. With south-facing slopes reaching down to the riverbanks, wine growing has thrived here for 1,000 years. Since being discovered by English and German romanticists in the early 19th century for its picturesque solitude, Rüdesheim has long lost its quiet innocence, as the narrow, medieval alleys fill with boatloads of cheerful visitors from all over the world.
Getting Here and Around
The town is on the B-42.
Rüdesheim Tourist-Information. | Rheinstr. 29a | 06722/906-150 | www.ruedesheim.de.
Drosselgasse (Thrush Alley).
Less than 500 feet long, Drosselgasse is a narrow, pub-lined lane between Rheinstrasse and Oberstrasse that buzzes with music and merrymaking from noon until well past midnight every day from Easter through October. | Rüdesheim.
With the wings of a glider you can silently soar over the Rhine Valley. At the Luftsport-Club Rheingau you can catch a 30- to 60-minute Segelflug (glider flight) between Rüdesheim and the Loreley; allow 1½ hours for pre- and postflight preparations. | Flugplatz Eibinger Forstwiesen, Kammerforsterstr., 3 km (2 miles) north of Niederwald-Denkmal and Landgut Ebenthal | 06722/2979 | www.lsc-rheingau.de | €15 for first 5 mins; each additional min €0.50; first 15 mins in glider with motor €30, each additional min €2 | Apr.-Oct., weekends and public holidays 10-7.
High above Rüdesheim and visible for miles stands Germania, a colossal female statue crowning the Niederwald Monument. This tribute to German nationalism was built between 1877 and 1883 to commemorate the rebirth of the German Empire after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). Germania faces across the Rhine toward its eternal enemy, France. At her base are the words to a stirring patriotic song: “Dear Fatherland rest peacefully! Fast and true stands the watch, the watch on the Rhine!” There are splendid panoramic views from the monument and from other vantage points on the edge of the forested plateau. You can reach the monument on foot, by car (via Grabenstrasse), or over the vineyards in the Seilbahn (cable car). There’s also a Sessellift (chairlift) to and from Assmannshausen, a red-wine enclave, on the other side of the hill; for €14, a “Ringticket” will take you from the Old Town to Niederwald by Seilbahn, from Niederwald to Assmannshausen by Sessellift, and back to Rüdesheim by boat. | Oberstr. 37 | 06722/2402 | www.seilbahn-ruedesheim.de | €5 one way, €7 round-trip, or €8 combined ticket for cable car and chairlift | Mar., Apr., and Oct., weekdays 9:30-5, weekends 9:30-6; May, daily 9:30-6; June and Sept., weekdays 9:30-6, weekends 9:30-7; July and Aug., daily 9:30-7; Nov., daily 9:30-4; early Dec.-mid-Dec., weekdays 11-6, weekends 11-7.
Weinmuseum Brömserburg (Brömserburg Wine Museum).
Housed in one of the oldest castles on the Rhine (it was built around the year 1000), the museum displays wine-related artifacts and drinking vessels dating from Roman times. There are great views from the roof and the terrace, where there are occasionally wine tastings (ask at the desk). | Rheinstr. 2 | 06722/2348 | www.rheingauer-weinmuseum.de | €5 | Mar.-Oct., daily 10-6.
WHERE TO STAY
Breuer’s Rüdesheimer Schloss.
$$ | HOTEL | Vineyard views grace most of the rooms at this stylish, historic hotel where guests are welcomed with a drink from the family’s Rheingau wine estate. Gracious hosts Susanne and Heinrich Breuer can arrange cellar and vineyard tours as well as wine tastings. Live piano music is played at the family’s restaurant. Pros: right off the Drosselgasse; numerous rate packages. Cons: noisy tourist area. | Rooms from: €135 | Steing. 10 | 06722/90500 | www.ruedesheimer-schloss.com | Closed late Dec.-early Jan. | 23 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Krone Assmannshausen.
$$ | HOTEL | From its humble beginnings in 1541 as an inn for sailors and ferrymen, the Krone evolved into an elegant, antiques-filled hotel with a fine restaurant. Rooms at the back of the hotel face busy railroad tracks, but thick glass provides good soundproofing. Two of the suites have their own sauna. Pros: restaurant has a terrace overlooking the Rhine; lovely views of vineyards as well as river. Cons: right on a main railroad line; rooms at the back have a less than spectacular view. | Rooms from: €170 | Rheinuferstr. 10 | Assmannshausen | 06722/4030 | www.hotel-krone.com | 53 rooms, 12 suites, 1 penthouse | Breakfast.
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Bingen | Bacharach | Oberwesel | St. Goar | St. Goarshausen | Boppard | Koblenz
Bingen, like Rüdesheim, is a gateway to the Mittelrhein. From here to Koblenz lies the greatest concentration of Rhine castles. Most date from the 12th and 13th centuries, but were destroyed after the invention of gunpowder, mainly during invasions by the French. It’s primarily thanks to the Prussian royal family and its penchant for historical preservation that numerous Rhine castles were rebuilt or restored in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Two roads run parallel to the Rhine: B-42 (east side) and B-9 (west side). The spectacular views from the heights can best be enjoyed on the routes known as the Loreley-Burgenstrasse (east side), from Kaub to the Loreley to Kamp-Bornhofen; or the Rheingoldstrasse (west side), from Rheindiebach to Rhens.
35 km (22 miles) west of Wiesbaden.
Bingen overlooks the Nahe-Rhine conflux near a treacherous stretch of shallows and rapids known as the Binger Loch (Bingen Hole). Early on, Bingen developed into an important commercial center, for it was here—as in Rüdesheim on the opposite shore—that goods were moved from ship to shore to circumvent the impassable waters. Bingen was also the crossroads of Roman trade routes between Mainz, Koblenz, and Trier. Thanks to this central location, it grew into a major center of the wine trade and remains so today. Wine is celebrated during 11 days of merrymaking in late August and early September at the annual Winzerfest.
Getting Here and Around
From Wiesbaden by road, take A-60 via Mainz. If you’re coming from Rüdesheim, you can hop on a ferry from the wharf opposite the train station.
Bingen Tourist-Information. | Rheinkai 21 | 06721/184-205 | www.bingen.de.
Basilika St. Martin.
The late-Gothic Basilika St. Martin was built on the site of a Roman temple and first mentioned in 793. The 11th-century crypt and Gothic and baroque furnishings make it worth a visit. Not far away is the thousand-year-old Drususbrücke, a stone bridge that runs over the Nahe. | Basilikastr. 1 | Mon. and Wed.-Fri. 8-5; Tues. and weekends 8-8.
Bingen was destroyed repeatedly by wars and fires; thus there are many ancient foundations but few visible architectural remains of the past. Since Celtic times the Kloppberg (Klopp Hill), in the center of town, has been the site of a succession of citadels, all named Burg Klopp, since 1282. Here you’ll find a terrace with good views of the Rhine, the Nahe, and the surrounding hills and from April to October you can climb the tower for a more lofty view. | Kloppg. 1 | Tower Apr.-Oct., daily 8-6.
Near the St. Roch Chapel, the Hildegard Forum has exhibits related to St. Hildegard, a medieval herb garden, and a restaurant serving tasty, wholesome foods (many based on Hildegard’s theories of nutrition) and a nice selection of local wines. The lunch buffet is a good value. | Rochusberg 1 | 06721/181-000 | www.hildegard-forum.de | Tues.-Sun. 11-6.
Fodor’s Choice | Historisches Museum am Strom (History Museum).
Here you can see the most intact set of Roman surgical tools ever discovered (2nd century), period rooms from the Rhine Romantic era, and displays about Abbess St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), one of the most remarkable women of the Middle Ages. An outspoken critic of papal and imperial machinations, she was a highly respected scholar, naturopath, and artist whose mystic writings and (especially) music became very popular from the 1990s onward. An excellent illustrated booklet in English on Rhine Romanticism, The Romantic Rhine, is sold at the museum shop. The museum is housed in a former power station (1898) on the riverbank. | Museumsstr. 3 | 06721/184-353 | www.bingen.de | €3 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Rochuskapelle (St. Roch Chapel).
The forested plateau of the Rochusberg (St. Roch Hill) is the pretty setting of the Rochuskapelle. Originally built in 1666 to celebrate the end of the plague, it has been rebuilt twice. On August 16, 1814, Goethe attended the consecration festivities, the forerunner of today’s Rochusfest, a weeklong folk festival in mid-August. The chapel (open during Sunday services at 8 and 10) contains an altar dedicated to St. Hildegard and relics and furnishings from the convents she founded on the Ruppertsberg (in the suburb of Bingerbrück) and in Eibingen (east of Rüdesheim). | Rochusberg 3 | 06721/14225.
WHERE TO EAT
Fodor’s Choice | Johann Lafer’s Stromburg.
$$$$ | EUROPEAN | It’s a pretty 15-minute drive through the Binger Wald (Bingen Forest) to this luxurious castle hotel and restaurant overlooking Stromberg. Johann Lafer is a prolific chef who pioneered cooking shows in Germany. In the elegant Val d’Or the Variationen (medley) of foie gras and the Hirschrücken mit Rosenkohl (venision with Brussels sprouts) are classics. The less formal Bistro d’Or serves tasty regional dishes. The wine list features some 200 top Nahe wines and several hundred Old and New World wines, with a particularly fine collection from Bordeaux and Burgundy. | Average main: €46 | Am Schlossberg 1 | Stromberg | 12 km (7½ miles) west of Bingerbrück via Weiler and Waldalgesheim | 06724/93100 | www.johannlafer.de/stromburg | Le Val d’Or closed Mon. and Tues. No lunch weekdays | Reservations essential.
$$ | GERMAN | It’s well worth the 10-minute drive from Bingen (just across the Nahe River) to enjoy the refined country cooking and exquisite Nahe wines produced by the Rumpf family. Seasonal house specialties include geschmorte Schweinebacken (braised pork jowls) with kohlrabi, boiled beef with green herb sauce, and Winzerschmaus (a casserole of potatoes, sauerkraut, bacon, cheese, and herbs). The house dates from 1790; the wisteria-draped garden beckons in summer. | Average main: €17 | Rheinstr. 47 | Münster-Sarmsheim | 4 km (2½ miles) southwest of Bingen | 06721/43859 | www.kruger-rumpf.com | Closed Mon. and 2 wks in Jan. No lunch weekdays | Reservations essential.
EN ROUTE: Mäuseturm (Mouse Tower).
On the 5-km (3-mile) drive on B-9 to Trechtingshausen you will pass by Bingen’s landmark, the Mäuseturm, perched on a rocky island near the Binger Loch. The name derives from a gruesome legend. One version tells that during a famine in 969 the miserly Archbishop Hatto hoarded grain and sought refuge in the tower to escape the peasants’ pleas for food. The stockpile attracted scads of mice to the tower, where they devoured everything in sight, including Hatto. In fact, the tower was built by the archbishops of Mainz in the 13th and 14th centuries as a Mautturm (watch tower and toll station) for their fortress, Ehrenfels, on the opposite shore (now a ruin). It was restored in neo-Gothic style by the king of Prussia in 1855, who also rebuilt Burg Sooneck, but you can’t go inside. | Mäuseturminsel.
The three castles open for visits near Trechtingshausen (turnoffs are signposted on B-9) will especially appeal to lovers of history and art. As you enter each castle’s gateway, consider what a feat of engineering it was to have built such a massive Burg (fortress or castle) on the stony cliffs overlooking the Rhine. They have all lain in ruin once or more during their turbulent histories. Their outer walls and period rooms still evoke memories of Germany’s medieval past as well as the 19th-century era of Rhine Romanticism.
This castle was the home of Rudolf von Habsburg from 1282 to 1286. To establish law and order on the Rhine, he destroyed the neighboring castles of Burg Reichenstein and Burg Sooneck and hanged their notorious robber barons from the oak trees around the Clemens Church, a late-Romanesque basilica near Trechtingshausen. The Gobelin tapestries, 15th-century stained glass, wall and ceiling frescoes, a floor of royal apartments, and antique furniture—including a rare “giraffe spinet,” which Kaiser Wilhelm I is said to have played—are the highlights here. All of this is illuminated by candlelight on some summer Fridays. Rheinstein was the first of many a Rhine ruin to be rebuilt by a royal Prussian family in the 19th century. | Trechtingshausen | From A-61, take exit AS Bingen center. Continue on B-9 through Bingerbrück towards Trechtingshausen; parking is below the castle | 06721/6348 | www.burg-rheinstein.de | €5.50 | Mid-Mar.-mid-Nov., daily 9:30-6; mid-Nov.-late Dec. and early to mid-Mar., weekends only 10-5 (weather permitting—call ahead).
Under new ownership since 2014 and on the fast track to becoming a stylish castle hotel with two restaurants, Reichenstein also has an interesting museum with collections of decorative cast-iron slabs (from ovens and historical room-heating devices), hunting weapons and armor, period rooms, and paintings. It’s the only one of the area’s three castles directly accessible by car. | Burgweg 7 | Trechtingshausen | 06721/6117 | www.burg-reichenstein.com | €5 | Museum Feb.-Dec., Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Perched on the edge of the Soon (pronounced zone) Forest, this imposing 11th-century castle houses a valuable collection of Empire, Biedermeier, and neo-Gothic furnishings, medieval weapons, and paintings from the Rhine Romantic era. | Sooneckstr. 1 | Niederheimbach | 06743/6064 | www.burgen-rlp.de | €4 | Apr.-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 9-6; Oct., Nov., and Jan.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 9-5.
16 km (10 miles) north of Bingen, ferry 3 km (2 miles) north of town, to Kaub.
Bacharach, whose name may derive from the Latin Bacchi ara (altar of Bacchus), has long been associated with wine. Like Rüdesheim, Bingen, and Kaub, it was a shipping station where barrels would interrupt their Rhine journey for land transport. Riesling wine from the town’s most famous vineyard, the Bacharacher Hahn, is served on the KD Rhine steamers, and Riesling is used in local cooking for marinades and sauces; you can even find Riesling ice cream. In June you can sample wines at the Weinblütenfest (Vine Blossom Festival) in the side-valley suburb of Steeg, and, in late August, at Kulinarische Sommernacht in Bacharach proper (www.kulinarische-sommernacht.de).
Park on the riverbank and enter the town through one of its medieval gateways. You can ascend the 14th-century town wall for a walk along the ramparts around the town, then stroll along the main street (one street but three names: Koblenzer Strasse, Oberstrasse, and Mainzer Strasse) for a look at patrician manors, typically built around a Hof (courtyard), and half-timber houses. Haus Sickingen, Posthof, Zollhof, Rathaus (Town Hall), and Altes Haus are fine examples.
Bacharach Tourist-Information. | Oberstr. 10 | 06743/919-303 | www.rhein-nahe-touristik.de.
The massive tower in the center of town belongs to the parish church of St. Peter. A good example of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic styles, it has an impressive four-story nave. | Blücherstr. 1.
From the parish church a set of stone steps (signposted) leads to Bacharach’s landmark, the sandstone ruins of the Gothic Wernerkapelle, highly admired for its filigree tracery. The chapel’s roof succumbed to falling rocks in 1689, when the French blew up Burg Stahleck. Originally a Staufen fortress (11th century), the castle lay dormant until 1925, when a youth hostel was built on the foundations. The sweeping views from there are worth the 10-minute walk. | Obertstr.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Altes Haus.
$ | GERMAN | This charming medieval half-timber house (1368) is a favorite setting for films and photos. The restaurant uses the freshest ingredients possible and buys meat and game from local butchers and hunters. Rieslingrahmsuppe (Riesling cream soup), Reibekuchen (potato pancakes), and a refined version of boiled beef with horseradish sauce, Tafelspitz mit Wasabi, are favorites, in addition to the seasonal specialties. There is also a good selection of local wines. | Average main: €10 | Oberstr. 61 | 06743/1209 | Closed Wed. and Dec.-Easter; closed weekdays in Apr. and Nov.
Gutsausschank Zum Grünen Baum.
$ | GERMAN | The Bastian family (also owners of the vineyard Insel Heyles’en Werth, on the island opposite Bacharach) runs this cozy tavern in a half-timber house dating from 1421. The “wine carousel” is a great way to sample a full range of wine flavors and styles (15 wines). Snacks are served (from noon), including delicious Wildsülze (game in aspic), with potato salad, sausages, and cheese. Reservations are a good idea on summer weekends. | Average main: €12 | Oberstr. 63 | 06743/1208 | www.weingut-bastian-bacharach.de | Closed Thurs. and Jan.-mid-Mar.
$ | HOTEL | Flowers line the windows of country-style rooms in this pretty half-timber hotel near the market square. The Scherschlicht family provides simply but attractively furnished lodgings, and some of the rooms have balconies. Four apartments with kitchens round out the offerings. Pros: half-timber romance. Cons: noisy tourist area; 10-minute walk from the station. | Rooms from: €92 | Blücherstr. 2 | 06743/1339 | www.altkoelnischer-hof.de | Closed Nov.-Mar. | 18 rooms, 2 suites, 4 apartments | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | The modern rooms in this friendly, family-run operation, each of them named after a vineyard, come with Rhine and castle views. The hotel is right at the town wall, a few steps from the town center and beneath a castle. The Stüber family’s restaurant has an excellent selection of Bacharacher wines to accompany the elegantly prepared Bacharacher Rieslingbraten (braised beef) and other regional specialties. Pros: Rhine and castle views; free bike and laptop loans for hotel guests. Cons: no elevator; next to railroad. | Rooms from: €110 | Langstr. 50 | 06743/1243 | www.rhein-hotel-bacharach.de | Closed late Dec.-Feb. | 13 rooms, 1 apartment | Breakfast.
8 km (5 miles) north of Bacharach.
Oberwesel retains its medieval silhouette. Sixteen of the original 21 towers and much of the town wall still stand in the shadow of Schönburg Castle. The “town of towers” is also renowned for its Riesling wines, which are celebrated during a festival held the first half of September. Both Gothic churches, on opposite ends of town, are worth visiting.
Oberwesel Tourist-Information. | Rathausstr. 3 | 06744/710-624 | www.oberwesel.de.
Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
Popularly known as the “red church” because of its brightly colored exterior, Liebfrauenkirche has superb sculptures, tombstones and paintings, and one of Germany’s oldest altars (1331). | Kirchstr. 1.
Set on a hill and with a fortresslike tower, the so-called “white church” has beautifully painted vaulting and a magnificent baroque altar. | Martinsberg 1.
Oberwesel’s city museum offers a virtual tour of the town, as well as a multimedia “journey through time” showing the area from the Stone Age to the present day. It also houses a fine collection of old etchings and drawings of the Rhine Valley, including one by John Gardnor, an English clergyman and painter, who published a book of sketches upon his return to England and kicked off a wave of Romantic tourism in the late 18th century. | Rathausstr. 23 | 06744/714-726 | www.kulturhaus-oberwesel.de | €3 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Fri. 10-5, weekends 2-5; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Fri. 10-2.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | Tables in the flower-laden garden in front of this lovingly restored half-timber house are at a premium in summer, though the seats in the nooks and crannies indoors are just as inviting. Dark beams, exposed stone walls, and antique furniture set the mood on the ground and first floors, and the vaulted cellar houses contemporary-art exhibitions. Ask Iris Marx, the ebullient proprietor, for an English menu if you’re stumbling over the words in local dialect. She offers country cooking at its best. The wine list has 32 wines by the glass. | Average main: €13 | Liebfrauenstr. 17 | 06744/8186 | www.historische-weinwirtschaft.de | Closed Tues. and Jan. No lunch Mon.-Sat.
Fodor’s Choice | Burghotel “Auf Schönburg”.
$$$$ | B&B/INN | Antique furnishings and historic rooms—a library, chapel, and prison tower—make for an unforgettable stay at this lovingly restored hotel and restaurant in the 12th-century Schönburg Castle complex. The restaurant (no lunch Monday), has a Rhine view and terrace seating in the castle’s courtyard; the experience is further enhanced by the extraordinarily friendly and personal service. If you have only a night or two in the area, this hotel’s first-rate lodging, food, and wine make it a great place to splurge. Pros: castle right out of a storybook. Cons: lots of climbing; parking lot 100 yards downhill; train tracks nearby; very expensive. | Rooms from: €290 | Oberwesel | 06744/93930 | www.hotel-schoenburg.com | Closed early Jan.-mid-Mar. | 20 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast.
7 km (4½ miles) north of Oberwesel.
St. Goar and St. Goarshausen, its counterpoint on the opposite shore, are named after a Celtic missionary who settled here in the 6th century. He became the patron saint of innkeepers—an auspicious sign for both towns, which now live off tourism and wine. September is especially busy, with Weinforum Mittelrhein (a major wine-and-food presentation in Burg Rheinfels) on the first weekend, and the annual wine festivals and the splendid fireworks display “Rhine in Flames” on the third weekend.
Getting Here and Around
Highway B-9 and train service link St. Goar to other towns on the Mittelrhein’s west side; ferries to St. Goarshausen connect it to the east.
St. Goar Tourist-Information. | Heerstr. 86 | 06741/383 | www.st-goar.de.
The castle ruins overlooking the town bear witness to the fact that St. Goar was once the best-fortified town in the Mittelrhein. From its beginnings in 1245, it was repeatedly enlarged by the counts of Katzenelnbogen, a powerful local dynasty, and their successors, the Landgraviate of Hesse. Rheinfels was finally blasted by the French in 1797. Take time for a walk through the impressive ruins and the museum, which has a detailed model of how the fortress looked in its heyday. To avoid the steep ascent on foot, buy a round-trip ticket (€4) for the Burgexpress, which departs from the bus stop on Heerstrasse, opposite the riverside parking lot for tour buses. | Off Schlossberg Str. | 06741/7753 | www.burg-rheinfels.com | €5 | Mid-Mar.-late Oct., daily 9-6; late Oct.-early Nov., daily 9-5.
This 15th-century collegiate church was built atop the tomb of St. Goar, despite the fact that the tomb itself (an ancient pilgrimage site) was discovered to be empty during the church’s construction. The 11th-century crypt has been called the most beautiful to be found on the Rhine, between Köln and Speyer. | Marktpl. | Free | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 11-6.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$$ | GERMAN | Members of the Lorenz and Nickenig-Kehring families make everyone feel at home in their riverside restaurant and hotel north of St. Goar. Martina Lorenz and her winemaker husband Joachim operate the Vinothek, where you can sample his delicious Bopparder Hamm wines. These go well with the hearty local dishes, such as Rhine-style sauerbraten or seasonal specialties (asparagus, game), at the Ausblick restaurant. The hotel is an official Rheinsteig and Rhein-Burgen trail partner—perfect for hikers. | Average main: €16 | Rheinuferstr. B-9 | 06741/2011 | www.hotel-landsknecht.de.
Fodor’s Choice | Romantik Hotel Schloss Rheinfels.
$$ | HOTEL | Directly opposite Burg Rheinfels, this hotel offers modern comfort and expansive views from rooms furnished in country-manor style. In addition to the rooms, there are suites and apartments, but some of these are in separate buildings. The hotel’s three restaurants serve local, home-style cooking as well as elaborate seven-course meals. Pros: marvelous views of the Rhine and the town. Cons: villa section some distance from main hotel and lacks charm. | Rooms from: €175 | Schlossberg 47 | 06741/8020 | www.schloss-rheinfels.de | 55 rooms, 4 apartments, 4 suites | Breakfast.
29 km (18 miles) north of Rüdesheim.
The town closest to the famous Loreley rock, pretty St. Goarshausen even calls itself Die Loreleystadt (Loreley City), and it’s a popular destination for Rhineland travelers, especially during the Weinwoche (Wine Week festival), which leads up to the third weekend in September.
Overlooking the town are two 14th-century castles whose names, Katz (Cat) and Maus (Mouse), reflect but one of the many power plays on the Rhine in the Middle Ages. Territorial supremacy and the privilege of collecting tolls fueled the fires of rivalry. In response to the construction of Burg Rheinfels, the archbishop of Trier erected a small castle north of St. Goarshausen to protect his interests. In turn, the masters of Rheinfels, the counts of Katzenelnbogen, built a bigger castle directly above the town. Its name was shortened to Katz, and its smaller neighbor was scornfully referred to as Maus. Neither castle is open to the public.
Getting Here and Around
Roads (B-42 and B-274) and rail service connect St. Goarshausen to neighboring towns on the east side of the Mittelrhein. Ferries to St. Goar link it to the west.
Liebenstein and Sterrenberg.
Some 10 km (6 miles) north of the Maus castle, near Kamp-Bornhofen, is a castle duo separated by a “quarrel wall”: Liebenstein and Sterrenberg, known as the Feindliche Brüder (rival brothers). Liebenstein is now home to a charming hotel, and both restored palaces have terrace cafés with good views. | Zu den Burgen 1 | Kamp-Bornhofen | www.castle-liebenstein.com.
One of the Rhineland’s main attractions lies 4 km (2½ miles) south of St. Goarshausen: the steep (430-foot-high) slate cliff named after the beautiful blonde nymph Loreley. Here she supposedly sat, singing songs so lovely that sailors and fishermen were lured to the treacherous rapids—and their demise. The rapids really were treacherous: the Rhine is at its narrowest here and the current the swiftest. The Loreley nymph was invented in 1801 by author Clemens Brentano, who drew his inspiration from the sirens of Greek legend. Her tale was retold as a ballad by Heinrich Heine and set to music by Friedrich Silcher at the height of Rhine Romanticism in the 19th century. The haunting melody is played on the PA systems of the Rhine boats whenever the Loreley is approached. | St. Goarshausen.
The 3-D, 20-minute film and hands-on exhibits at this visitor center are entertaining ways to learn about the region’s flora and fauna, geology, wine, shipping, and, above all, the myth of the Loreley. You can stock up on souvenirs in the shop and have a snack at the bistro before heading for the nearby vantage point at the cliff’s summit. The center is on the Rheinsteig trail, and other hiking trails are signposted in the landscaped park. From Easter to October there’s hourly bus service to and from the KD steamer landing in St. Goarshausen. | Auf der Loreley 7 | 06771/599-093 | www.loreley-besucherzentrum.de | €2.50 | Apr.-Oct., daily 11-5.
17 km (11 miles) north of St. Goar, ferry to Filsen.
Boppard is a pleasant little resort that evolved from a Celtic settlement into a Roman fortress, Frankish royal court, and Free Imperial City. Boppard’s tourism board conducts walking tours (in German, €3) mid-April to mid-October, Saturday at 11, starting at its office on the market square. Special tours in English are also bookable for groups.
Boppard Tourist-Information. | Altes Rathaus, Am Marktpl. | 06742/3888 | www.boppard-tourismus.de.
The Roman garrison Bodobrica, established here in the 4th century, was enclosed by a 26-foot-high rectangular wall (1,010 by 505 feet) with 28 defense towers. You can see portions of these in a fascinating open-air archaeological park. | Angertstr. | Near B-9 and the railroad tracks | Free | Always accessible.
Karmeliterkirche (Carmelite Church).
Two baroque altars dominate the interior of the Gothic Karmeliterkirche on Karmeliterstrasse, near the Rhine. It houses intricately carved choir stalls and tombstones and several beautiful Madonnas. Winegrowers still observe the old custom of laying the first-picked Trauben (grapes) at the foot of the Traubenmadonna (1330) to ensure a good harvest. The annual wine festival takes place in late September or early October, just before the Riesling harvest. | Karmeliterstr.
Severuskirche (Church of St. Severus).
Excavations in the 1960s revealed ancient Roman baths beneath the twin-tower, Romanesque Severuskirche on the market square. The large triumphal crucifix over the main altar and a lovely statue of a smiling Madonna date from the 13th century. | Marktpl.
From the Mühltal station, let the Sesselbahn (chairlift) whisk you a half-mile uphill to the Vierseenblick, from where the Rhine looks like a chain of lakes. | Mühltal 12 | 06742/2510 | www.sesselbahn-boppard.de | €7.50 round-trip | Mid-Apr.-Sept., daily 10-6; Oct. 1-15, daily 10-5:30; Apr. 1-15 and Oct. 15-31, daily 10-5.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
Weinhaus Heilig Grab.
$ | GERMAN | This wine estate’s tavern, Boppard’s oldest, is full of smiling faces: the wines are excellent, the food is simple and hearty, and the welcome is warm. Old chestnut trees shade tables in the courtyard. If you’d like to visit the cellars or vineyards, ask the friendly hosts. | Average main: €8 | Zelkesg. 12 | 06742/2371 | www.heiliggrab.de | Closed Tues. and late Dec.-Jan. No lunch.
Best Western Bellevue Rheinhotel.
$$ | HOTEL | In this traditional hotel now run by the fourth and fifth generations of the same family, you can enjoy a Rhine view from many of the rooms, or from the terrace next to the waterfront promenade. Afternoon tea and dinner are served in the upscale restaurant Le Chopin, while Le Bristol serves more regional fare. In 2014 the hotel’s modernly elegant new sister property Residence Bellevue opened just a few blocks away, with 20 spacious apartments of between 600 and 750 square feet. Pros: marvelous views. Cons: parking is a problem; breakfast costs €11 extra. | Rooms from: €128 | Rheinallee 41 | 06742/1020 | www.bellevue-boppard.de | 93 rooms, 1 suite | No meals.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
If you have Alpine hiking ambitions, try this climbing path—a “via ferrata” complete with cables, steps, and ladders to help reach heights more quickly. It’s an alternate route of the Rhein-Burgen-Wanderweg (hiking trail from Koblenz to Bingen). The trail starts at St.-Remigius-Platz, about 1 km (½ mile) from Boppard Hauptbahnhof. Allow two to three hours for the climb, though there are several possibilities to return to the “normal” path in-between climbs. Rent the necessary gear at the Aral gas station on Koblenzer Strasse in Boppard. | St.-Remigius-Pl. | 06742/2447 Aral gas station.
Weinwanderweg (Wine Hiking Trail).
The 10-km (6-mile) hiking trail from Boppard to Spay begins north of town on Peternacher Weg. Many other marked trails in the vicinity are outlined on maps and in brochures available from the tourist office.
EN ROUTE: Marksburg.
On the eastern shore overlooking the town of Braubach is the Marksburg. Built in the 13th century to protect the silver and lead mines in the area, it’s the only land-based castle on the Rhine to have survived the centuries intact. Within its massive walls are a collection of weapons and manuscripts, a medieval botanical garden, and a self-service restaurant. Try to get a table on the terrace to enjoy the stunning view. | Braubach | 02627/206 | www.marksburg.de | €7 | Easter-Oct., daily 10-5; Nov.-Easter, daily 11-4.
EN ROUTE: Schloss Stolzenfels.
On the outskirts of Koblenz, the neo-Gothic towers of Schloss Stolzenfels come into view. The castle’s origins date to the mid-13th century, when the archbishop of Trier sought to counter the influence (and toll rights) of the archbishop of Mainz, who had just built Burg Lahneck, a castle at the confluence of the Lahn and Rhine rivers. Its superbly furnished period rooms and beautiful gardens are well worth a visit. From B-9 (curbside parking) it’s about a 15-minute walk to the castle entrance. | Koblenz | 0261/51656 | stolzenfels.gdke.webseiten.cc | €4 | Apr.-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 9-6; Oct., Nov., and Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-5; Jan. and Feb., weekends 10-5.
20 km (12 miles) north of Boppard.
The ancient city of Koblenz is at a geographic nexus known as the Deutsches Eck (German Corner) in the heart of the Mittelrhein region. Rivers and mountains converge here: the Mosel flows into the Rhine on one side; the Lahn flows in on the other a few miles south; and three mountain ridges intersect.
Founded by the Romans in AD 9, the city was first called Castrum ad Confluentes (Fort at the Confluence). It became a powerful center in the Middle Ages, when it controlled trade on both the Rhine and the Mosel. Air raids during World War II destroyed 85% of the city, but extensive restoration has done much to re-create its former atmosphere. As the host of Germany’s Federal Horticultural Show in 2011, the city saw widespread urban development, including the new Seilbahn that transports visitors across the river and up to the Ehrenbreitstein fortress.
Getting Here and Around
You can get here speedily by autobahn or train, or via a leisurely scenic drive along the Rhine (or even more mellow, by cruise boat). The Koblenz tourist office has guided English-language tours on Saturday at 3 from April to October. Tours are €7 and depart from the Tourist-Information office.
Koblenz Tourist-Information. | Forum Confluentes, Zentralpl. 1 | 0261/19433 | www.koblenz-touristik.de.
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Deutsches Eck (German Corner).
This pointed bit of land, jutting into the river like the prow of an early ironclad warship, is at the sharp intersection of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. One of the more effusive manifestations of German nationalism—an 1897 equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, first emperor of the newly united Germany—was erected here. It was destroyed at the end of World War II and replaced in 1953 with a ponderous monument to Germany’s unity. After German reunification a new statue of Wilhelm was placed atop this monument in 1993. Pieces of the Berlin Wall stand on the Mosel side—a memorial to those who died as a result of the partitioning of the country.
Fodor’s Choice | Festung Ehrenbreitstein.
Europe’s largest fortress, towering 400 feet above the left bank of the Rhine, offers a magnificent view over Koblenz and where the Mosel and the Rhine rivers meet. The earliest buildings date from about 1100, but the bulk of the fortress was constructed in the 16th century. In 1801 it was partially destroyed by Napoléon, and the French occupied Koblenz for the next 18 years. For an introduction to the fortress and its history, head for the Besucherdienst (visitor center). English-language tours are for groups only, but you can often join a group that is registered for a tour.
A Seilbahn (cable car) carries you a half mile from Konrad-Adenauer-Ufer over the river to Ehrenbreitstein, with spectacular views of the Deutsches Eck below. Lifts can accommodate 7,000 passengers in an hour, and operate continually throughout the day from a half-hour before the site opens until a half-hour after it closes.
| Felsenweg | 0261/6675-4000 | www.diefestungehrenbreitstein.de | Fortress €6, Seilbahn ride round-trip €9, combined ticket €11.80 | Mid-Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-mid-Apr., daily 10-5; year-round free access to grounds.
Landesmuseum Koblenz (State Museum).
The Festung Ehrenbreitstein’s museum has exhibits on the history of local industries, from wine growing to technology. Pride of place is given to the fortress’s 16th-century Vogel Greif cannon, which has done a lot of traveling over the years. The French absconded with it in 1794, the Germans took it back in 1940, and the French commandeered it again in 1945. The 15-ton cannon was peaceably returned by French president François Mitterrand in 1984. | Festung Ehrenbreitstein, Felsenweg | 0261/66750 | www.landesmuseum-koblenz.de | Included in €6 fortress admission | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-mid-Mar., weekends 10-5.
Just behind the Deutsches Eck, this museum is housed in the spic-and-span Deutschherrenhaus, a restored 13th-century building. Industrialist Peter Ludwig, one of Germany’s leading contemporary-art collectors, has filled this museum with part of his huge collection. | Danziger Freiheit 1 | 0261/304-040 | www.ludwigmuseum.org | €5 | Tues.-Sat. 10:30-5, Sun. 11-6.
Relocated in 2013 to the new Forum Confluentes, this museum houses the city’s art collection, including extensive holdings of landscapes focusing on the Rhine. It also has a notable collection of secular medieval art and works by regional artists. | Zentralpl. 1 | 0261/129-2520 | www.mittelrhein-museum.de | €6, special exhibitions €6, €10 for both | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
St. Kastor Basilika (St. Castor Basilica).
It was in this sturdy Romanesque basilica, consecrated in 836, that plans were drawn for the Treaty of Verdun a few years later, formalizing the division of Charlemagne’s great empire and leading to the creation of Germany and France as separate states. Inside, compare the squat Romanesque columns in the nave with the intricate fan vaulting of the Gothic sections. The St. Kastor Fountain outside the church is an intriguing piece of historical one-upmanship. It was built by the occupying French to mark the beginning of Napoléon’s ultimately disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. | Kastorhof | www.sankt-kastor-koblenz.de | Free | Daily 9-6.
Strolling along the promenade toward town, you’ll pass this gracious castle. It was built in the late 18th century by Prince-Elector Clemens Wenzeslaus as an elegant escape from the grim Ehrenbreitstein fortress. Though the palace is primarily used these days as a conference and event center, its Grand Café is open to the public. | Neustadt.
Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
This church stands on Roman foundations at the Old Town’s highest point, where, on surrounding streets, war damage is evidenced by the blend of old buildings and modern store blocks. The bulk of the church is of Romanesque design, but its choir is one of the Rhineland’s finest examples of 15th-century Gothic architecture, and the west front is graced with two 17th-century baroque towers. | Am Plan | Mon.-Sat. 8-6, Sun. 9-8.
Part of a Rhine-wide system that keeps track of river levels, Koblenz’s squat Pegelhaus is one of the city’s landmarks, originally a Rheinkran (Rhine crane) when it was built in 1611. Marks on the side of the building indicate the heights reached by floodwaters of bygone years. In the mid-19th century a pontoon bridge consisting of a row of barges spanned the Rhine here; when ships approached, two or three barges were simply towed out of the way to let them through. Today a restaurant operates within the Pegelhaus. | Konrad-Adenauer-Ufer.
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | ECLECTIC | Portraits of Einstein line the walls of this busy restaurant, where locals gather to watch live soccer matches. The friendly Tayhus family serves tasty fare daily, from a hearty breakfast buffet (there’s brunch on Sunday—reservations recommended) to late-night finger food. Fish specials are served year-round. | Average main: €15 | Firmungstr. 30 | 0261/914-4999 | www.einstein-koblenz.de.
$$$ | GERMAN | At this smart restaurant in the heart of the Old Town, da Vinci reproductions, including an original-size rendition of The Last Supper, adorn the walls. Leather upholstery, an elegant bar, and soft lighting round out the stylish interior. The chef presents a modernized Mediterranean menu with innovative dishes like crab with grapefuit, curry, shellfish jelly, and pink ginger. The wine list includes more than 200 bottles, with a focus on German, Italian, and French wines. | Average main: €23 | Firmungstr. 32b | 0261/921-5444 | www.davinci-koblenz.de.
$ | GERMAN | This reconstructed “wine village” of half-timber houses is grouped around a tree-shaded courtyard with an adjacent vineyard. The fresh renditions of traditional Rhine and Mosel specialties, a good selection of local wines, and a fabulous Sunday brunch (reservation recommended) where wine, beer, and nonalcoholic beverages are included in the price (€31.90) all make this a popular spot. | Average main: €12 | Julius-Wegeler-Str. 2 | 0261/133-7190 | www.weindorf-koblenz.de | Closed Tues. No lunch Nov.-Mar.
$ | GERMAN | Hunting scenes and trophies line the wood-panel walls of this cozy wine restaurant, named after the patron saint of hunters, and the decorations also include 100-year-old murals. Hearty portions of fresh, traditional fare (à la Wildschwein Würstchen, or wild boar sausages) are what you’ll find on offer. | Average main: €14 | Florinsmarkt 6 | 0261/31177 | weinhaus-hubertus.de | No lunch weekdays.
Zum Weissen Schwanen.
$$ | GERMAN | Guests have found a warm welcome in this half-timber inn and mill since 1693, a tradition carried on by the Kunz family. This is a charming place to enjoy a dinner of well-prepared, contemporary German cuisine with regional specialties. Brasserie Brentano serves lighter dishes as well as lunch and Sunday brunch. It’s next to the 13th-century town gateway of Braubach, just below the Marksburg. The hotel is an official Rheinsteig trail partner. | Average main: €20 | Brunnenstr. 4 | Braubach | 12 km (7½ miles) south of Koblenz via B-42 | 02627/9820 | www.zum-weissen-schwanen.de.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Kleiner Riesen.
$$ | HOTEL | You can literally watch the Rhine flowing by from the four front rooms of this friendly, family-operated hotel, about a 10-minute walk from the station. It’s in a tranquil location perfect for strolling along the river promenade or for catching a tour boat from the pier. Pros: quiet; on the river; close to piers. Cons: 20-minute walk from city center. | Rooms from: €100 | Januarius-Zick Str. 11 | 0261/303-460 | www.hotel-kleinerriesen.de | 19 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
In the suburb of Güls, this place features cabaret, stand-up comedians, popular musicians and bands, and other shows. | Neustr. 15 | 0261/42302 | www.cafehahn.de.
You’ll find dancing, live music, and theme parties practically every evening here. On a balmy night, visit Circus Maximus’s Statt Strand beach bar, on Universitätsstrasse on the banks of the Mosel near the university. | Stegemannstr. 30 at Viktoriastr. | 0261/300-2357 | www.circus-maximus.org, www.strand-koblenz.de.
Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie (Rhenish Philharmonic Orchestra).
The Philharmonic plays regularly at various concert venues around town. | Eltzerhofstr. 6a | 0261/301-2272 | www.rheinische-philharmonie.de.
Built in 1787, this gracious neoclassic theater is still in regular use and has resident drama, ballet, and musical theater ensembles. | Clemensstr. 1-5 | 0261/129-2870 | www.theater-koblenz.de.
Koblenz’s most pleasant shopping is in the Old Town streets around the market square, Am Plan.
This modern mall has some 130 shops and restaurants. | Hohenfelder Str. 22 | 0261/133-906 | www.loehr-center.de.
EN ROUTE: Garten der Schmetterlinge Schloss Sayn (Garden of Butterflies).
Butterflies from South America, Asia, and Africa flit back and forth over your head between the branches of banana trees and palms in two pavilions at this park. The palace houses a small museum of decorative cast-iron objects, a restaurant, and a café and its park can be explored. It’s 15 km (9 miles) north of Koblenz (Bendorf exit off B-42). | Im Fürstlichen Schlosspark | Bendorf-Sayn | 02622/15478 | www.sayn.de | Butterfly garden €7.50, Sayn Palace €5, both €9.50 | Mar.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct., daily 10-5; Nov., daily 10-4.
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Winningen | Alken | Cochem | Ediger-Eller | Traben-Trarbach | Bernkastel-Kues | Dhrontal | Trier
The Mosel is one of the most hauntingly beautiful river valleys on Earth—with the added draw of countless ancient vineyards on the banks, creating abundant opportunities for sampling some of Germany’s best wines. Here, as in the Rhine Valley, forests and vines carpet steep hillsides; castles and church spires dot the landscape; and medieval wine hamlets line the riverbanks. The Mosel landscape is no less majestic, but is narrower and more peaceful than that of the Rhine Gorge; the river’s countless bends and loops slow its pace and lend the region a leisurely charm.
Wine Tasting in the Mosel Valley
The Mosel Valley’s storybook castles and hill-hugging vineyards make it a popular alternative to the busier Rhine, be it for a soothing day or two or a week of rejuvenation. The charming town of Cochem, 55 km (32 miles) upriver from Koblenz, is a favorite destination, with its winding medieval streets and its proximity to the magnificent Burg Eltz. Others prefer the town of Bielstein, 10 km (6 miles) farther on, which is sometimes called the “Sleeping Beauty of the Mosel.”
True wine connoisseurs often focus on the heart of the region, the Mittelmosel (or Middle Mosel), which begins about 18 km (11 miles) upstream from Beilstein, at Zell. Here vineyards tumble down steep slate slopes to riverside villages full of half-timber, baroque, and belle époque buildings. Famed for its warm climate and 2,000-year-old winemaking tradition, the Middle Mosel produces some of the best Rieslings in the world. Its many wineries are concentrated along a meandering 120-km (75-mile) stretch of the lush river valley, with picture-perfect towns and rural estates that run almost to the ancient town of Trier, near the Luxembourg border.
In the Tasting Room
The Middle Mosel is dominated by small, family-run wineries that have been producing high-quality wines for generations. Their tasting rooms, when not part of the wineries themselves, are frequently extensions of family homes, sometimes giving you the opportunity to meet the winemakers, who generally speak English at least well enough to describe their wines. Varietals like Muller-Thurgau, Weissburgunder, and Spätburgunder are produced here too, but the staple of most estates is Riesling. Opening hours vary, and although you can visit most tasting rooms outside of these times, there may not always be someone around to serve you. To avoid disappointment, check websites ahead of time for wineries’ opening hours.
When to Go
The best time to visit the region is between May and September, when a lightly chilled glass or two of wine is the perfect complement to a sunny spring day or a warm summer evening. This coincides with high season in the valley, when roads and cycle paths swell with tourists, particularly in September, during the harvest. Fortunately, wine villages are never that far apart. If you find a tasting room that’s too busy, there’s invariably another around the corner. (Note: Most wineries won’t charge to taste a couple of their wines, but will expect you to purchase a bottle or two if you try more. Those that do have tasting fees—commonly between €5 and €15—often waive them if you buy a bottle.)
Options for estate visits abound in the Mosel Valley, but a few not to miss include the Grand Cru excellence of Weingut Martin Müllen, and the fantastic dry whites at Schmitges. If you decide to spend a few days in the Middle Mosel, some perfect places for overnights include the stylish Jugendstilhotel Bellevue.
11 km (7 miles) southwest of Koblenz.
Winningen is a gateway to the Terrassenmosel (Terraced Mosel), the portion of the river characterized by steep, terraced vineyards. Winches help haul miniature monorails, with the winegrowers and their tools aboard, up the steep incline, but tending and harvesting the vines are all done by hand. TIP For a bird’s-eye view of the valley, drive up Fährstrasse to Am Rosenhang, the start of a pleasant walk along the Weinlehrpfad (Educational Wine Path).
As you head upstream toward Kobern-Gondorf, you’ll pass the renowned vineyard site, Uhlen. In Kobern, the Oberburg (upper castle) and the St. Matthias Kapelle, a 12th-century chapel, are good vantage points. Half-timber houses reflecting the architectural styles of three centuries ring the town’s pretty market square.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
Alte Mühle Thomas Höreth.
$$$ | GERMAN | Thomas and Gudrun Höreth’s enchanting country inn is a labyrinth of little rooms and cellars grouped around oleander-lined courtyards. They have restored this former mill, originally dating to 1026, and furnished it with thoughtful details and authentic materials. Highlights of the menu include homemade cheeses, terrines, pâtés, and Entensülze (goose in aspic), served with the Höreths’ own wines. For those who want to get away from the river, the Höreths have a pleasing hotel in the forest, Höreth im Wald. | Average main: €23 | Mühlental 17 | Kobern-Gondorf | Via B-416 | 02607/6474 | www.thomas-hoereth.de | No lunch weekdays.
$ | B&B/INN | Two of the suites in this traditional hotel on Kobern-Gondorf’s market square, 6 km (4 miles) from Winningen, are across the courtyard, in what might be Germany’s oldest half-timber house (1321). Light fare is served in the Weinstube, which has an open fireplace, and in warmer months there’s a beer garden. Pros: half-timber setting. Cons: no elevator. | Rooms from: €89 | Marktpl. 4 | Kobern-Gondorf | 02607/974-8537 | www.hotelsimonis.com | Closed Jan. and Feb. | 13 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
22 km (14 miles) southwest of Koblenz.
One of the Mosel’s oldest towns (the Celts were here by 450 BC), today Alken is best known for its 12th-century castle, Burg Thurant. With a pretty waterside setting backdropped by rolling vineyards and the castle above, Alken’s among the lovelier wine village stops along the Untermosel (Lower Mosel) between Koblenz and Pünderich.
Getting Here and Around
The B-49 connects Alken to Koblenz. The nearest train stop, on the Regionalbahn from Koblenz, is at Löf, across the river and linked to Alken by a bridge and a 2½-km (1½-mile) walk.
This 12th-century castle towers over the village and the Burgberg (castle hill) vineyard. Castle tours include the chapel, cellar, tower, and a weapons display, and wine and snacks are served in the courtyard. Allow a good half hour for the climb from the riverbank. | Alken | 02605/2004 | www.thurant.de | €3.50 | Mar. and Apr., daily 10-5; May-mid-Nov., daily 10-6.
EN ROUTE: Burg Eltz (Eltz Castle).
Genuinely medieval (12th-16th century) and genuinely stunning, Burg Eltz deserves as much attention as King Ludwig’s trio of castles in Bavaria. For the 40-minute English-language tour, given when enough English speakers gather, ask at the souvenir shop. It guides you through the period rooms and massive kitchen. There’s also a popular treasure vault filled with gold and silver. To get here, exit B-416 at Hatzenport (opposite and southwest of Alken), proceed to Münstermaifeld, and follow signs to the parking lot near the Antoniuskapelle. From here it’s a 15-minute walk, or take the shuttle bus (€2). Hikers can reach the castle from Moselkern in about an hour. | Burg Eltz | Münstermaifeld | 02672/950-500 | www.burg-eltz.de | Tour and treasure vault €10 | Late Mar.-Oct., daily 9:30-5:30.
51 km (32 miles) southwest of Koblenz, approximately 93 km (58 miles) from Trier.
Cochem is one of the most attractive towns of the Mosel Valley, with a riverside promenade to rival any along the Rhine. It’s especially lively during the wine festivals in June and late August. If time permits, savor the landscape from the deck of a boat—many excursions are available, lasting from one hour to an entire day. From the Enderttor (Endert Town Gate) you can see the entrance to one of Germany’s longest railroad tunnels, the Kaiser-Wilhelm, an astonishing example of 19th-century engineering. The 4-km (2½-mile) tunnel saves travelers a 21-km (13-mile) detour along one of the Mosel’s great loops.
Cochem Tourist-Information. | Endertpl. 1 | 02671/60040 | www.cochem.de.
Cochemer Sesselbahn (Cochem Chairlift).
A ride on the chairlift to the Pinner Kreuz provides great vistas. | Endertstr. 44 | 02671/989-063 | www.cochemer-sesselbahn.de | €6.30 round-trip | Late Mar.-early July, daily 10-6; early July-Aug., daily 9:30-7; Sept., daily 10-6:30; Oct., daily 10-4; early Nov.-mid-Nov., daily 11-4.
Wolfgang Steffens conducts daily tours at 11, 2, 3, and 4, showing how he produces the gourmet mustard at his 200-year-old mill. Garlic, cayenne, honey, curry, and Riesling wine are among the flavors you can sample and buy in the shop. From the Old Town, walk across the bridge toward Cond. The mill is to the left of the bridgehead. | Stadionstr. 1 | 02671/607-665 | www.senfmuehle.net | Tours €2.50 | Daily 10-6.
Reichsburg (Imperial Fortress).
The 15-minute walk to this 1,000-year-old castle overlooking the town will reward you with great views of the area. In a tie-in with the fortress’s past, falconry demonstrations are put on Tuesday to Sunday at 11, 1, 2:30, and 4. With advance reservations, you can also get a taste of the Middle Ages at a medieval banquet, complete with costumes, music, and entertainment. Banquets take place on Friday (7 pm) and Saturday (6 pm) and last four hours; the price (€49) includes a castle tour. During the Burgfest (castle festival) the first weekend of August, there’s a medieval market and colorful tournaments. | Schlossstr. 36 | 02671/255 | www.reichsburg-cochem.de | €6, including 40-min tour; falconry €4 | Mid-Mar.-early Nov., daily 9-5.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | Locals and tourists mingle naturally here, near the open fireplace and antique wine-making equipment. The food is local and fortifying: sausages, cheeses, ham, and homemade soups served with the wines from host Arthur Schmitz’s own estate. As the night progresses, locals might unpack their musical instruments and start playing. Note that this place doesn’t serve beer. | Average main: €8 | Schlossstr. 6 | 02671/8950 | No credit cards | No lunch weekdays.
$$$ | GERMAN | The rustic family inn Moselromantik Hotel Weissmühle is set amid the forested hills of the Enderttal (Endert Valley) on the site of a historic mill that belonged to the current proprietor’s great-great-grandfather. Lined with photos and memorabilia from the original mill, it’s an oasis from traffic and crowds yet only 2½ km (1½ miles) from Cochem. Beneath the exposed beams and painted ceiling of Restaurant Müllerstube, trout from the hotel’s own fish farm will grace your table. German and French wines are served. The inn’s underground bar, originally built to become a swimming pool, opens around 9 pm and is a bit of a time capsule with lots of 1970s German kitsch. | Average main: €25 | Wilde Endert 2 | 02671/8955 | www.hotel-weissmuehle.de.
EN ROUTE: Beilstein.
Ten kilometers (6 miles) south of Cochem, on the opposite shore, the ruins of Metternich Castle crown the Schlossberg (Castle Hill) vineyard next to the romantic village of Beilstein, also known as Sleeping Beauty on the Mosel. Take in the stunning Mosel loop panorama from the castle’s terrace café before heading for the market square below. Then ascend the Klostertreppe (monastery steps) leading to the baroque monastery church for views of the winding streets lined with half-timber houses.
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61 km (38 miles) southwest of Koblenz.
Ediger-Eller, once two separate hamlets, is another photogenic wine village with well-preserved houses and remnants of a medieval town wall. It’s particularly romantic at night, when the narrow alleys and half-timber buildings are illuminated by historic streetlights.
Martinskirche (St. Martin’s Church).
The church is a remarkable amalgamation of art and architectural styles, inside and out. Take a moment to admire the 117 carved bosses in the star-vaulted ceiling of the nave. Among the many fine sculptures throughout the church and the chapel is the town’s treasure: a Renaissance stone relief, Christ in the Winepress. | Kirchstr.
WHERE TO STAY
$$ | HOTEL | This simply furnished hotel comes with friendly service and a splendid terrace overlooking the Mosel. Some rooms have a balcony facing the river, though rooms at the back of the hotel are quieter. In addition to arranging wine tastings and hikes in Calmont, Europe’s steepest vineyard site, the staff can also help you plan fishing trips and lunch in the Saffenreuther’s own vineyard. Pros: fine view of the Mosel. Cons: on a busy street; no elevator. | Rooms from: €110 | Moselweinstr. 23 | 02675/208 | www.mosel-hotel-loewen.de | Closed late Dec.-Mar. | 20 rooms | Breakfast.
EN ROUTE: Calmont.
As you continue along the winding course of the Mosel, you’ll pass Europe’s steepest vineyard site, Calmont, just before the loop at Bremm. Opposite Calmont are the romantic ruins of a 12th-century Augustinian convent.
EN ROUTE: Zell.
This popular village is full of pubs and wineshops that ply the crowds with Zeller Schwarze Katz, “Black Cat” wine, a commercially successful product and the focal point of a large wine festival in late June. Some 6 million vines hug the slopes around Zell, making it one of Germany’s largest wine-growing communities. The area between Zell and Schweich (near Trier), known as the Middle Mosel, is home to some of the world’s finest Riesling.
30 km (19 miles) south of Cochem.
The Mosel divides Traben-Trarbach, which has pleasant promenades on both sides of the river. Its wine festivals are held the second and last weekends in July. Traben’s art nouveau buildings are worth seeing, including the Hotel Bellevue, the gateway on the Mosel bridge, the post office, the train station, and the town hall.
For a look at fine period rooms and exhibits on the historical development of the area, visit the Mittelmosel Museum, in the Haus Böcking (1750). | Casino Str. 2 | 06541/9480 | €2.50 | Easter-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Weingut Martin Müllen.
Established in 1991, this winery is very new compared to many others here. Its success has its roots in modern and traditional winemaking principles, and it has one of the best Grand Cru vineyards in the region. Try the light but complex Trarbacher Hühnerberg Riesling Spätlese. | Alte Marktstr. 2 | 06541/9470 | www.muellen.de.
Where to Stay
$$ | HOTEL | Traben-Trarbach’s premier hotel has a first-class reputation that derives from its belle époque architecture, fine cuisine, professional, knowledgeable staff, and superb wine list. Pros: fantastic art nouveau surroundings; prime Mosel-side location. Cons: expensive; some rooms lack river views. | Rooms from: €170 | An der Mosel 11 | 06541/7030 | www.bellevue-hotel.de | 68 rooms | Breakfast.
EN ROUTE: During the next 24 km (15 miles) of your drive down the Mosel from Traben-Trarbach you’ll pass by world-famous vineyards, such as Erdener Treppchen, Ürziger Würzgarten, the Sonnenuhr (sundial) sites of Zeltingen and Wehlen, and Graacher Himmelreich, before reaching Bernkastel-Kues.
22 km (14 miles) southwest of Traben-Trarbach, 100 km (62 miles) southwest of Koblenz.
Bernkastel and Kues straddle the Mosel, on the east and west banks, respectively. Bernkastel is home to famed Bernkasteler Doctor, a small, especially steep vineyard that makes one of Europe’s most expensive wines. Early German humanist Nikolaus Cusanus (1401-64) was from Kues; today his birthplace and St.-Nikolaus-Hospital are popular attractions.
Getting Here and Around
By car, Bernkastel-Kues is about 45 minutes northeast of Trier and 90 minutes southwest of Koblenz. The closest train station (Regionalbahn) is in Wittlich, about a 20-minute taxi ride away.
Bernkastel-Kues Tourist-Information. | Gestade 6 | 06531/500-190 | www.bernkastel.de.
From the hilltop ruins of this 13th-century castle there are splendid views. It was here that Trier’s Archbishop Boemund II is said to have recovered from an illness by drinking the local wine. This legendary vineyard, still known as “the Doctor,” soars up from Hinterm Graben street near the town gate, Graacher Tor. You can purchase these well-regarded wines at some of the shops around town. | Bernkastel-Kues.
This winery’s presence in the Mosel includes vineyards in seven different villages and a grand villa in the center of Bernkastel, where a cozy Vinothek (shop) is found inside the mansion’s vaulted cellars. Try the light and flinty Alte Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling. | Gestade 15 | 06531/3002 | www.pauly-bergweiler.com.
Bernkastel’s former Jewish population was well assimilated into town society until the Nazis took power. You can ask at the tourist center to borrow a key to the town’s Jewish cemetery, reachable by a scenic half-hour hike through the vineyards in the direction of Traben-Trarbach. Opened in the mid-19th century, it contains a few headstones from a destroyed 17th-century graveyard. | Old Town | About 1 km (½ mile) from Graacher Tor.
A friendly husband-and-wife team run this winery, which has eight generations of winemaking tradition behind it. They make a special collection of Rieslings with labels designed by visiting artists, and have an unpretentious tasting room close to the river. Try the dry Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Feinherb. | Uferallee 6 | Around 4 km (2½ miles) north, at Wehlen | 06531/6868 | www.weingut-kerpen.de.
Elaborately carved half-timber houses (16th-17th century) and a Renaissance town hall (1608) frame St. Michael’s Fountain (1606) on Bernkastel’s photogenic market square. In early September the square and riverbank are lined with wine stands for one of the region’s largest wine festivals, the Weinfest der Mittelmosel. | Bernkastel-Kues.
The Renaissance philosopher and theologian Nikolaus Cusanus (1401-64) was born in Kues. The St.-Nikolaus-Hospital is a charitable Stiftung (foundation) he established in 1458, and it still operates a home for the elderly and a wine estate. | Cusanusstr. 2 | 06531/2260 | www.cusanus.de | Tours €5 | Tours: Tues. at 10:30, Fri. at 3.
Mosel-Weinmuseum (Wine museum).
Within St.-Nikolaus-Hospital is a wine museum as well as a bistro. There’s also a Vinothek (wineshop) in the vaulted cellar, where you can sample more than 150 wines from the entire Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. | St.-Nikolaus-Hospital, Cusanusstr. 2 | www.moselweinmuseum.de | Museum €5; Vinothek free, or €15 with wine tasting | Mid-Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-mid-Apr., daily 2-5.
You’ll find only Rieslings in Rebenhof’s stylish, contemporary tasting room, which shares space with the stainless-steel fermentation tanks. Try the flinty, old-vine Ürziger Würtgarten Riesling Spätlese. | Hüwel 2-3 | Ürzig | 06532/4546 | www.rebenhof.de.
This winery specializes in the production of high-quality dry whites that, along with the modern, winebar style of their Vinothek, distinguishes them from many other local establishments. They’re located down an unassuming village lane. One standout is the light, summery Rivaner. | Hauptstr. 24 | Erden | 06532/2743 | www.schmitges-weine.de.
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | GERMAN | Just off Bernkastel’s main square, Der Ratskeller serves uncomplicated regional food that can be enjoyed at an outside table with a view of the action, or inside cozily surrounded by dark wood and leaded windows. | Average main: €16 | Markt 30 | 06531/973-1000 | www.ratskeller-bernkastel.de | No credit cards | Closed Thurs.; also closed Wed. Jan.-Mar.
$$ | FRENCH | The fish menu, vegetarian selection, and fancy twists on traditional and regional dishes are what set this initially unassuming restaurant apart from the crowd. It’s in one of Burgstrasse’s charming half-timber houses. | Average main: €17 | Burgstr. 19 | 06531/6572 | www.rotisserie-royale.de | No credit cards | Closed Wed.
Fodor’s Choice | Waldhotel Sonnora.
$$$$ | FRENCH | At their elegant country inn in the forested Eifel Hills, Helmut and Ulrike Thieltges offer guests one of Germany’s absolute finest dining experiences. Helmut is an extraordinary chef, renowned for transforming truffles, foie gras, and Persian caviar into masterful dishes. Challans duck in an orange-ginger sauce is his specialty. The wine list is equally superb. The dining room, with gilded and white-wood furnishings and plush red carpets, has a Parisian look, and the pretty gardens add to a memorable visit. Sonnora can prepare a vegetarian menu, but call ahead. | Average main: €60 | Dreis | Auf’m Eichelfeld, 8 km (5 miles) southwest of Wittlich, which is 18 km (11 miles) west of Kues via B-50; from A-1, exit Salmtal | 06578/98220 | www.hotel-sonnora.de | Closed Mon. and Tues., Jan., and 1st 2 wks in July | Reservations essential.
Weinhotel St. Stephanus.
$$$ | EUROPEAN | Rita and Hermann Saxler operate a comfortable, modern hotel and upscale restaurant in a 19th-century manor house on the Ufer (riverbank) at Zeltingen. Whether you opt for the handsome dining room or the terrace overlooking the Mosel, Saxler’s Restaurant is a good destination for refined regional cooking with a Mediterranean touch. The spa offers vinotherapy—treatments using grape-based products, such as grapeseed oil. | Average main: €22 | Uferallee 9 | Zeltingen-Rachtig | 06532/680 | www.hotel-stephanus.de | No lunch Mon.-Thurs. in Jan.-Mar.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel zur Post.
$$ | HOTEL | The Rössling family makes you feel welcome at their comfortable hotel, which dates from 1827. It’s near the riverbank, and the market square is just around the corner. Rooms are rather dated in terms of style, but are spacious and very clean. The wine list at the inviting Alpine-style restaurant is devoted mainly to Mosel Rieslings. Pros: near the market square. Cons: on a busy street. | Rooms from: €115 | Gestade 17 | 06531/96700 | www.hotel-zur-post-bernkastel.de | Closed Feb.-mid-Mar. | 42 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
Wein- & Landhaus S. A. Prüm.
$$ | B&B/INN | The traditional wine estate S.A. Prüm has state-of-the-art cellars and an attractive Vinothek for cellar tours and tastings, as well as a stunning dining room and an idyllic patio facing the Mosel and the vineyards. The spacious rooms and baths are individually decorated, with a winning mixture of contemporary and antique furnishings. Pros: good rooms, some of which have vineyard and Mosel views. Cons: no elevator. | Rooms from: €110 | Uferallee 25 | About 4 km (2½ miles) north, at Wehlen | 06531/3110 | www.sapruem.com | Closed mid-Dec.-Feb. | 8 rooms, 2 apartments | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Weinromantikhotel Richtershof.
$$ | HOTEL | This renovated 17th-century manor in a shady park offers comfortable rooms and first-class friendly service. Relax over a great breakfast or a glass of wine on the garden terrace—or taste the Richtershof estate wines during a visit to the centuries-old vaulted cellars. The hotel has three restaurants, including a regionally inspired gourmet restaurant and a handsome bistro-bar, which serves lunch daily. The spa, reminiscent of Roman baths, has treatments using grapeseed oil and other products from the vineyard. Pros: garden terrace; wheelchair-accessible rooms; 24-hour room service. Cons: thin walls. | Rooms from: €160 | Hauptstr. 81-83 | Mülheim | 5 km (3 miles) south of Bernkastel via B-53 | 06534/9480 | www.weinromantikhotel.de | 38 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast.
EN ROUTE: Paulinshof.
The 55-km (34-mile) drive from Bernkastel to Trier takes in another series of outstanding hillside vineyards, including the Brauneberg, 10 km (6 miles) upstream from Bernkastel. On the opposite side of the river is the Paulinshof, where Thomas Jefferson was impressed by a 1783 Brauneberger Kammer Auslese during his visit here in 1788. You can sample contemporary vintages of this wine in the beautiful chapel on the estate grounds. | Paulinsstr. 14 | Kesten | 06535/544 | www.paulinshof.de | Weekdays 8-6, Sat. 9-4.
EN ROUTE: Piesport.
On a magnificent loop 12 km (7½ miles) southwest of Brauneberg stands the famous village of Piesport, whose steep, slate cliff is known as the Loreley of the Mosel. The village puts on a fireworks display for its Loreleyfest the first weekend in July. Wines from its 35 vineyards are collectively known as Piesporter Michelsberg. The finest individual vineyard site, and one of Germany’s very best, is the Goldtröpfchen (“little droplets of gold”).
25 km (15 miles) from Bernkastel-Kues.
If the heat of the Mosel’s slate slopes becomes oppressive in summer, you can revitalize body and soul with a scenic drive through the cool, fragrant forest of the Dhrontal (Dhron Valley), south of Trittenheim, and make a stop at one of its restaurants or wineries.
Sektgut St. Laurentius.
Whether in the spacious tasting room, on the outdoor terrace, or in the modern little wine bar near the river, there are plenty of places to taste this winery’s Sekt (sparkling wine), considered some of the best in the region. Try the fruity, creamy, and yeasty Crémant, a sparkler with fewer bubbles than most others. | Laurentiusstr. 4 | Leiwen | 06507/3836 | www.st-laurentius-sekt.de.
The Bauers’ simple, modern tasting room was built as an extension of the family home, and four generations reside beneath its roof. This winery’s a good place to sample award-winning still and sparkling white wines presented with old-fashioned hospitality. Try the fruity, refreshing Winzersekt Riesling Brut. | Moselstr. 3 | Mülheim | 06534/571 | www.weingut-bauer.de.
This welcoming winery’s varietals include Riesling and Weissburgunder; it also produces a nice Rotling, which is a cuvée (blend) of Müller-Thurgau and Regent. When the sun’s shining, the best place to taste them is on the winery’s small trellised veranda. Try the fresh, elegant “my karp” Riesling. | Moselweinstr. 186 | Brauneberg | 06534/236 | www.karp-schreiber.de.
In addition to Riesling, visitors can sample Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in this winery’s Mediterranean-style garden on the banks of the Mosel. The playfully fruity Felsenwingert Goldtröpfchen Riesling is a good choice. | In der Dur 6-10 | Piesport | 06507/2123 | www.weingut-lv.net.
WHERE TO EAT
Rüssels Landhaus St. Urban.
$$$$ | GERMAN | Aromatic, visually stunning food presentations are served among comfortable surroundings with wines from Germany’s leading producers, including the owners’ family’s Weingut St. Urbans-Hof in Leiwen. The house is stylish, and like the food, it has Mediterranean influences. | Average main: €32 | Büdlicherbrück 1 | Naurath (Wald) | 8 km (5 miles) south of Trittenheim, toward Hermeskeil; from A-1, exit Mehring | 06509/91400 | www.landhaus-st-urban.de | Closed Tues., Wed., and 2 wks in Jan.
Wein- und Tafelhaus.
$$$$ | AUSTRIAN | For first-class wining and dining in a charming country inn or on its idyllic terrace overlooking the Mosel, this is well worth a detour. Alexander Oos and his Austrian wife are friendly, attentive hosts. The soups are delicious, as are the creative renditions of fish and shellfish. Some desserts reflect his wife’s Tirolean homeland. Every month there are three new suggestions for a four- or five-course menu—they’re expensive, but good value for a restaurant of this caliber. Four rooms are available for staying overnight. | Average main: €36 | Moselpromenade 4 | Trittenheim | 06507/702-803 | wein-tafelhaus.de | No credit cards | Closed Mon., Tues., 2 wks in Jan. and 2 wks in July.
55 km (34 miles) southwest of Bernkastel-Kues, 150 km (93 miles) southwest of Koblenz.
Thanks to its deep history, the Trier of today holds a wealth of ancient sites. It’s also an important university town, and accordingly boasts a surprisingly rich modern cultural landscape for a city of its size (just over 100,000 residents).
Its roots reach back to at least 400 BC, by which time a Celtic tribe, the Treveri, had settled the Trier Valley. Eventually Julius Caesar’s legions arrived at this strategic point on the river, and Augusta Treverorum (“the town of [Emperor] Augustus in the land of the Treveri”) was founded in 16 BC. It was described as an opulent city, as beautiful as any outside Rome.
Around AD 275 an Alemannic tribe stormed Augusta Treverorum and reduced it to rubble. But it was rebuilt in even grander style and renamed Treveris. Eventually it evolved into one of the leading cities of the empire, and was promoted to “Roma secunda” (a second Rome) north of the Alps. As a powerful administrative capital it was adorned with all the noble civic buildings of a major Roman settlement, as well as public baths, palaces, barracks, an amphitheater, and temples. The Roman emperors Diocletian (who made it one of the four joint capitals of the empire) and Constantine both lived in Trier for years at a time.
Trier survived the collapse of Ancient Rome and became an important center of Christianity and, ultimately, one of the most powerful archbishoprics in the Holy Roman Empire. The city thrived throughout the Renaissance and baroque periods, taking full advantage of its location at the meeting point of major east-west and north-south trade routes and growing fat on the commerce that passed through.
Getting Here and Around
The area is excellent for biking. Rentals are available at the bicycle garage (Fahrradgarage) directly next to the Porta Nigra in the city center, or near track 11 of the main train station. Cyclists can follow the marked route of the Radroute Nahe-Hunsrück-Mosel between Trier and Bingen.
In late June, more than 100,000 people come out for this music festival in the Old Town, which also features a city run, markets, and a parade. Major venues include the Trier Arena and Trier Europahalle, hosting the likes of André Rieu, James Last, and Deep Purple. | Trier | www.altstadtfest-trier.de.
Wine, sparkling wine, beer, and fireworks fill this annual July celebration along the riverbank in Zurlauben district. | Trier | www.zurlaubener-heimatfest.de.
Weinfest (Wine Festival).
This popular wine-focused event happens over a four-day weekend in early August in the Olewig district. | Trier.
This Christmas market and festival features nearly a hundred booths, and takes place on the market square and in front of the cathedral. | Trier | www.trierer-weihnachtsmarkt.de.
You can circumnavigate the town with the multilingual narrated tours of the Römer-Express trolley. It departs from Porta Nigra, near the tourist office. | An der Porta Nigra | €9.
Actors dressed in Roman costume bring the history of the amphitheater, the Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths), and the old town gate to life in these 2½-hour tours. They are conducted in German, but the guide or someone else in the group probably speaks some English and can translate the basic points. Reservations are essential, and tickets are available from the tourist office. | Trier | €10.50.
Tourist Office Bus Tour.
The tourist office runs a bus tour of the town, departing from near their building at the Porta Nigra, but the narration is only in German. | An der Porta Nigra | €12.50.
Tourist Office Walking Tours.
Various walking tours are offered by the tourist office, including one conducted in English which is available on Saturday at 1, May through October. | An der Porta Nigra | €6.50.
To do justice to Trier, consider staying for at least two full days. A walk around Trier will take a good two hours, and you will need extra time to climb the tower of the Porta Nigra, walk through the vast interior of the Dom and its treasury, visit the underground passageways of the Kaiserthermen, and examine the cellars of the Amphitheater. Allow at least another half hour each for the Museum am Dom Trier (formerly known as the Bischöfliches Museum) and Viehmarktthermen, as well as an additional hour for the Rheinisches Landesmuseum.
Discounts and Deals
The Trier Card, available from the visitor center’s website or at the center in Porta Nigra, entitles the holder to free public transportation and discounts on tours and admission fees to Roman sights, museums, and sports and cultural venues. It costs €9.90 and is valid for three successive days. The Antiquity Card (€10) grants admission to the Landesmuseum and two Roman structures, and is available at those locations and the tourist office.
Trier Tourist-Information. | An der Porta Nigra | 0651/978-080 | www.trier-info.de.
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Fodor’s Choice | Amphitheater.
The sheer size of Trier’s oldest Roman structure (circa AD 100) is impressive; in its heyday it seated 20,000 spectators. You can climb down to the cellars beneath the arena—animals were kept in cells here before being unleashed to do battle with gladiators. | Olewiger Str. | €3 | Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct. and Mar., daily 9-5; Nov.-Feb., daily 9-4.
Bischöfliche Weingüter (Episcopal Wine Estates).
Drop down into a labyrinth of cellars beneath Trier’s streets or visit the estate’s elegant Vinothek (wine store) to sample fine Rieslings, which were built on almost two millennia of priestly tradition. The Scharzhofberger Riesling is fruity and elegant. | Gervasiusstr.1 | 0651/145-760 | www.bischoeflicheweingueter.de.
Fodor’s Choice | Dom (Cathedral).
The oldest Christian church north of the Alps, the Dom stands on the site of the Palace of Helen. Constantine tore the palace down in AD 330 and put up a large church in its place. The church burned down in 336, and a second, even larger one was built. Parts of the foundations of this third building can be seen in the east end of the present structure (begun in about 1035). The cathedral you see today is a weighty and sturdy edifice with small round-head windows, rough stonework, and asymmetrical towers, as much a fortress as a church. Inside, Gothic styles predominate—the result of remodeling in the 13th century—although there are also many baroque tombs, altars, and confessionals. | Domfreihof | 0651/979-0792 | www.dominformation.de | Free; tours €4.50 | Apr.-Oct., daily 6:30-6, tours at 2; Nov.-Mar., daily 6:30-5:30.
Domschatzkammer (Cathedral Treasure Chamber).
The highlight of the cathedral’s museum is the 10th-century Andreas Tragaltar (St. Andrew’s Portable Altar), constructed of oak and covered with gold leaf, enamel, and ivory by local craftsmen. It’s a reliquary for the soles of St. Andrew’s sandals, as signaled by the gilded, life-size foot on the top of the altar. | Dom, Domfreihof | €1.50; €4 for combined ticket with Museum am Dom Trier | Mid-Mar.-Oct. and Dec., Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 12:30-5; Nov. and Jan.-mid-Mar., Tues.-Sat. 11-4, Sun. 12:30-4.
Fodor’s Choice | Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths).
This enormous 4th-century bathing palace once housed cold- and hot-water baths and a sports field. Although only the masonry of the Calderium (hot baths) and the vast basements remain, they are enough to give a fair idea of the original splendor and size of the complex. Originally 98 feet high, the walls you see today are just 62 feet high. | Weimarer-Allee and Kaiserstr. | 0651/436-2550 | €3 | Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct. and Mar., daily 9-5; Nov.-Feb., daily 9-4.
Konstantin Basilika (Constantine Basilica).
An impressive reminder of Trier’s Roman past, this edifice, now the city’s major Protestant church, was built by the emperor Constantine around AD 310 as the imperial throne room of the palace. At 239 feet long, 93 feet wide, and 108 feet high, it demonstrates the astounding ambition of its Roman builders and the sophistication of their building techniques. The basilica is one of the two largest Roman interiors in existence (the other is the Pantheon in Rome). Look up at the deeply coffered ceiling; more than any other part of the building, it conveys the opulence of the original structure. An ornate rococo garden now separates the basilica from the Landesmuseum. | Konstantinpl. | 0651/42570 | Apr.-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 10-6, Sun. 1-4; Nov.-Mar., Mon.-Sat. 10-noon and 2-4, Sun. 1-4.
Museum am Dom Trier (Museum at the Trier Cathedral).
This collection, just behind the Dom, focuses on medieval sacred art, and there are also fascinating models of the cathedral as it looked in Roman times. Look for 15 Roman frescoes, discovered in 1946, that may have adorned the Emperor Constantine’s palace. | Bischof-Stein-Pl. 1 | 0651/710-5255 | www.bistum-trier.de/museum | €3.50; €4 for combined ticket with Domschatzkammer | Tues.-Sat. 9-5; Sun. 1-5.
Fodor’s Choice | Porta Nigra (Black Gate).
The best-preserved Roman structure in Trier was originally a city gate, built in the 2nd century (look for holes left by the iron clamps that held the structure together). The gate served as part of Trier’s defenses and was proof of the sophistication of Roman military might and its ruthlessness. Attackers were often lured into the two innocent-looking arches of the Porta Nigra, only to find themselves enclosed in a courtyard. In the 11th century the upper stories were converted into two churches, in use until the 18th century. The tourist office is next door. | Porta-Nigra-Pl. | 0651/718-2451 | €3 | Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct. and Mar., daily 9-5; Nov.-Feb., daily 9-4.
Fodor’s Choice | Rheinisches Landesmuseum (Rhenish State Museum).
The largest collection of Roman antiquities in Germany is housed here. The highlight is the 4th-century stone relief of a Roman ship transporting barrels of wine up the river. This tombstone of a Roman wine merchant was discovered in 1874, when Constantine’s citadel in Neumagen was excavated. Have a look at the 108-square-foot model of the city as it looked in the 4th century—it provides a sense of perspective to many of the sights you can still visit today. | Weimarer-Allee 1 | 0651/97740 | www.landesmuseum-trier.de | €6 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
The main market square of Old Trier—lined with gabled houses from several ages—is easily reached via Simeonstrasse. The market cross (958) and richly ornate St. Peter’s Fountain (1595), dedicated to the town’s patron saint, stand in the square. A flower and vegetable market is held here every weekday, while a farmers’ market can be found at nearby Viehmarktplatz on Tuesday and Friday 8-2. | Trier.
Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in this bourgeois house built in 1727. Visitors with a serious interest in social history will be fascinated by its small museum. Some of Marx’s personal effects, as well as first-edition manifestos are on display. Audio guides are available in English, and English-language tours can be arranged on request. | Brückenstr. 10 | 0651/970-680 | www.fes.de/karl-marx-haus | €4 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Mon. 2-5, Tues.-Sun. 11-5.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Roscheider Hof.
For a look at 19th- and 20th-century rural life in the Mosel-Saar area, visit this hilltop Freilichtmuseum (open-air museum) near Konz-Saar, 10 km (6 miles) southwest of Trier via B-51. Numerous farmhouses and typical village buildings in the region were saved from the wrecking ball by being dismantled and brought to the Roscheider Hof, where they were rebuilt and refurnished as they appeared decades ago. Old schoolrooms, a barbershop and beauty salon, a tavern, a shoemaker’s workshop, a pharmacy, a grocery, and a dentist’s office have been set up in the rooms of the museum proper, along with period rooms and exhibitions on local trades and household work, such as the history of laundry. A large collection of tin figures is here too, and there’s also a Biedermeier rose garden, museum shop, and restaurant with beer garden (closed Monday, cash only) on the grounds. | Roscheiderhof 1 | Konz | 06501/92710 | www.roscheiderhof.de | €5 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Fri. 9-6, weekends 10-6; Nov.-Mar. indoor facilities only, Tues.-Fri. 9-5, weekends 10-5.
Stadtmuseum Simeonstift Trier (Simeon Foundation City Museum).
Built around the remains of the Romanesque Simeonskirche, this church is now a museum. It was constructed in the 11th century by Archbishop Poppo in honor of the early medieval hermit Simeon, who for seven years shut himself up in the east tower of the Porta Nigra. Collections include art and artifacts produced in Trier from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. | Simeonstr. 60 | 0651/718-1459 | www.museum-trier.de | €5.50, €1 on 1st Sun. of month | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Trier’s third Roman bath (early 1st century) was discovered when ground was broken for a parking garage. Finds of the excavations from 1987 to 1994 are now beneath a protective glass structure. You can visit the baths and see the cellar of a baroque Capuchin monastery. | Viehmarktpl. | 0651/994-1057 | €3 | Tues.-Sun. 9-5.
WHERE TO EAT
$$$$ | GERMAN | This wine estate in the peaceful suburb of Olewig features a gourmet restaurant with prix-fixe menus, a Weinhaus serving regional cuisine, and a casual Weinstube. Dining alfresco is a nice option in summer. Bordeaux and Burgundy wines are available in addition to the estate’s own wines, and wine tastings, cellar visits, and guided tours on the wine path can be arranged. | Average main: €29 | Olewiger Str. 206 | 0651/938-080 | www.beckers-trier.de | Restaurant closed Sun. and Mon.
$$$$ | GERMAN | The name means “gourmet owl,” and, indeed, the chef caters to gourmets in the 19th-century Palais Walderdorff complex opposite the cathedral. Truffles are a specialty, and the fish is always excellent. Wines from top German estates, particularly from the Mosel, and an extensive selection of red wines are available. Lots of windows lend a light, airy look to the restaurant, and a replica of one of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings is on the ceiling. There’s courtyard seating in summer. | Average main: €29 | Palais Walderdorff, Domfreihof 1B | 0651/73616 | www.schlemmereule.de | Closed Sun. | Reservations essential.
$$ | GERMAN | Two soups daily, hearty fare, and fresh, regional cuisine are served with wines from the Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt estate. The Tagesgericht (daily special) and Aktionsmenü (prix-fixe menu) are a good bet. Das Beste der Region (the region’s best) is an ample selection of local hams, cheeses, fish, and breads, served on a wooden board for two. The interior has exposed beams and polished wood tables, and the shady terrace is popular in summer. | Average main: €15 | Liebfrauenstr. 10 | 0651/41178 | www.weinstube-kesselstatt.de.
$ | GERMAN | Whether you dine inside or out, don’t miss the collection of Roman artifacts displayed in the cellar. In addition to the German dishes on the regular menu, you can order from à la carte or prix-fixe menus based on recipes attributed to the Roman gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius in the evening. | Average main: €14 | Hauptmarkt 5 | 0651/74490 | www.domstein.de.
WHERE TO STAY
$$ | B&B/INN | Markus and Monika Stemper—a passionate cook and a gracious hostess—bring modern style to their country inn near the Luxembourg border. The garden (with palms, ponds, and flowers galore), comfortable rooms, and personal service are all remarkable. Stempers Brasserie (closed Sunday and Thursday) serves dishes with Mediterranean touches, enhanced by an extensive wine list. Pros: country atmosphere; legendary garden. Cons: removed from city center. | Rooms from: €109 | In der Acht 1-2 | 7 km (4½ miles) southwest of Trier via B-49 | 0651/827-280 | www.ambiente-trier.de | 12 rooms | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | The Pantenburgs’ friendly, family-run hotel is high on Petrisberg hill overlooking Trier, not far from the amphitheater and a 20-minute walk to the Old Town. The individually decorated rooms have solid-pine furnishings, and all but two have balconies—some with a fabulous view of the city. In the evening, you can sit down for snacks and good local wines in the pub. Pros: fine view of Trier. Cons: somewhat removed from the city center. | Rooms from: €110 | Sickingenstr. 11-13 | 0651/4640 | www.hotelpetrisberg.de | 24 rooms, 2 apartments | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | Centrally located near the Porta Nigra, this handsome patrician manor from 1885 offers well-appointed rooms with attractive baths. Rooms 317 and 318 are quite spacious and have little balconies overlooking flower-filled Porta-Nigra-Platz. While some of Trier’s other restaurants are more stylish, the food here is tasty, as is the ample breakfast buffet. Pros: near the Porta Nigra; free Wi-Fi. Cons: some rooms are dark due to a neighboring building. | Rooms from: €116 | Porta-Nigra-Pl. 6 | 0651/977-0100 | www.friedrich-hotels.de | 43 rooms | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
Most of the town’s pubs and cafés are on Viehmarktplatz and Stockplatz in the Old Town. TIP For up-to-the-minute information on performances, concerts, and events all over town, visit | www.trier-today.de.
This popular Trier dance club features international DJs, theme parties, and live music. | Hindenburgstr. 4 | 0651/9949-6603 | www.metropolis-trier.de.
Opera, theater, and ballet performances are staged here, as well as concerts. | Am Augustinerhof | 0651/718-1818 | www.theater-trier.de.
Concerts, theater, and other cultural events are staged here. | Wechselstr. 4, at Weberstr. | 0651/718-2412 | www.tufa-trier.de.
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Bonn | Königswinter | Brühl | Köln (Cologne) | Aachen | Düsseldorf
Bonn, the former capital of West Germany, and of reunified Germany until 1999, is the next major stop after Koblenz on the Rhine. It’s close to the legendary Siebengebirge (Seven Hills), a national park and site of western Germany’s northernmost vineyards. According to German mythology, Siegfried (hero of the Nibelungen saga) killed a dragon here and bathed in its blood to make himself invincible. The lowland, a region of gently rolling hills north of Bonn, lacks the drama of the Rhine Gorge upstream but offers the urban pleasures of Köln (Cologne), an ancient cathedral town, and Düsseldorf, an elegant city of art and fashion. Although not geographically in the Rhineland proper, Aachen is an important side trip for anyone visiting the region. Its stunning cathedral and treasury are the greatest storehouses of Carolingian art and architecture in Europe.
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61 km (38 miles) north of Koblenz, 28 km (17 miles) south of Köln.
Bonn was the postwar seat of the federal government and parliament until Berlin became its capital again in 1999. Aptly described by the title of John le Carré’s spy novel A Small Town in Germany, the quiet university town was chosen as a stopgap measure to prevent such weightier contenders as Frankfurt from becoming the capital, a move that would have lessened Berlin’s chances of regaining its former status. With the exodus of the government from Bonn, the city has become a bit less cosmopolitan. Still, Bonn thrives as the headquarters of two of Germany’s largest multinational corporations (Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Post/DHL), and the UN has expanded its presence in the city as well. The fine museums and other cultural institutions that once served the diplomatic elite are still here to be enjoyed.
Getting Here and Around
The town center is a car-free zone; an inner ring road circles it with parking garages on the perimeter. A convenient parking lot is just across from the train station and within 50 yards of the tourist office, which is on Windeckstrasse near the Hauptbahnhof. Bonn has extensive bike paths downtown; these are designated paths (often demarcated with blue-and-white bicycle symbols) on the edges of roads or sidewalks. TIPPedestrians, beware: anyone walking on a bike path risks getting mowed down. Bicyclists are expected to follow the same traffic rules as cars. In Bonn the Radstation, at the main train station, will not only rent you a bike and provide maps, but will also fill your water bottle and check the pressure in your tires for free.
Bilingual bus tours of Bonn cost €16 and start from the tourist office. They’re conducted daily at 2 from Easter to October, and Saturday only November to March. A variety of walking tours are also available, including the “Bonn zu Fuss” city tour (€9), offered Saturday at 11 am from late April to October.
Bilingual bus tours of Bonn start from the tourist office daily at 2, Easter through October and on Saturday in March and November. | Bonn | €16.
Concerts are held at numerous indoor and outdoor venues during September’s monthlong Beethoven-Festival. | Bonn | 0228/201-0345 | www.beethovenfest.de.
Discounts and Deals
Bonn’s tourism office sells the Bonn Regio Welcome Card, which offers an array of reductions, plus free entry into most museums, in combination with low- or no-cost transportation; the card costs €9 per 24-hour period.
Radstation. | Quantiusstr. (opposite Nos. 4-6) | 0228/981-4636 | www.radstationbonn.de.
Bonn Information. | Windeckstr. 1, on Münsterpl. | 0228/775-000 | www.bonn.de.
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Beethoven-Haus (Beethoven House).
Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770 and, except for a short stay in Vienna, lived here until the age of 22. You’ll find scores, paintings, a grand piano (his last, in fact), and an ear trumpet or two. Thanks to the modern age, there’s now a “Stage for Music Visualization,” an interactive exhibit involving 3-D glasses that shows Beethoven’s best-loved works. The museum shop carries everything from kitsch to elegant Beethoven memorabilia. | Bonng. 20 | 0228/981-7525 | www.beethoven-haus-bonn.de | €6 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 11-5.
Bundesviertel (Federal Government District).
Walking through the pleasant area that was once the government district is like taking a trip back in time, to an era when Bonn was still the sleepy capital of West Germany. Bordered by Adenauerallee, Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse, Franz-Josef-Strasse, and the Rhine, the quarter boasts sights such as the Bundeshaus, which includes the Plenarsaal (plenary hall). Designed to serve as the new Federal Parliament, the Bundeshaus was completed only seven years before the capital was relocated to Berlin in 1999. A few steps away, you’ll find the historic Villa Hammerschmidt, the German equivalent of the White House. This stylish neoclassical mansion began serving as the Federal president’s permanent residence in 1950, and is still his home when he stays in Bonn. Equally impressive is the Palais Schaumburg, another fine example of the Rhein Riveria estates that once housed the Federal Chancellery (1949-76). It became the center of Cold War politics during the Adenauer administration. Tours of the quarter, including a visit to the Villa Hammerschmidt, are offered by the Bonn Tourist Office. | U-Bahn Heussallee.
Kunstmuseum Bonn (Art Museum).
Changing exhibits are generally excellent at this large museum that focuses on Rhenish expressionists and German art since 1945 (Beuys, Baselitz, and Kiefer, for example). The museum’s airy and inexpensive café is better than the stuffier version across the plaza at the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle. | Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 2 | 0228/776-260 | www.kunstmuseum-bonn.de | €7 | Tues.-Sun. 11-6 (until 9 pm Wed.).
Kurfürstliches Schloss (Prince-Electors’ Palace).
Built in the 18th century by the prince-electors of Köln, this grand palace now houses Bonn’s university. If the weather is good, stroll through Hofgarten park in front of it. When Bonn was a capital, this patch of grass drew tens of thousands to antinuclear demonstrations. Today it’s mostly used for games of pickup soccer and ultimate Frisbee. | Am Hofgarten.
The 900-year-old church is vintage late Romanesque, with a massive octagonal main tower and a soaring spire. It stands on a site where two Roman soldiers were executed in the 3rd century for being Christian. It saw the coronations of two Holy Roman Emperors (in 1314 and 1346) and was one of the Rhineland’s most important ecclesiastical centers in the Middle Ages. The 17th-century bronze figure of St. Helen and the ornate rococo pulpit are highlights of the interior; outside you’ll find two giant stone heads: those of Cassius and Florentius, the martyred soldiers. | Münsterpl. | 0228/985-880 | www.bonner-muenster.de | Free | Weekends 7-7.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Alter Friedhof (Old Cemetery).
This ornate, leafy cemetery is the resting place of many of the country’s most celebrated sons and daughters. Look for the tomb of composer Robert Schumann (1810-56) and his wife, Clara, also a composer and accomplished pianist. | Bornheimerstr. | From the main train station, follow Quantiusstr. west, parallel to the tracks until it becomes Herwarthstr.; before the street curves to the left, turning into Endenicherstr., take the underpass below the railroad track. You’ll then be on Thomastr., which borders the cemetery | Mar.-Oct., daily 7 am-8 pm; Nov.-Feb. daily 8-5.
Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall).
This 18th-century rococo town hall looks somewhat like a pink dollhouse. Its elegant steps and stair entry have seen a great many historic figures, including French president Charles de Gaulle and U.S. president John F. Kennedy. It’s now the seat of the Lord Mayor of Bonn and can only be admired from the outside. | Am Markt.
Bundeskunsthalle (Art and Exhibition Hall of the German Federal Republic).
This is one of the Rhineland’s most important venues for major temporary exhibitions about art, culture, and archaeology. Its modern design, by Viennese architect Gustave Peichl, is as interesting as anything on exhibit in the museum. It employs three enormous blue cones situated on a lawnlike rooftop garden. | Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 4 | 0228/91710 | www.bundeskunsthalle.de | One exhibit €10, all exhibits €15 (reduced to €6.50 2 hrs before closing) | Tues. and Wed. 10-9, Thurs.-Sun. 10-7.
Haus der Geschichte (House of History).
German history since World War II is the subject of this museum, which begins with “hour zero,” as the Germans call the unconditional surrender of 1945. The museum displays an overwhelming amount of documentary material organized on five levels and engages various types of media. It’s not all heavy either—temporary exhibits have featured political cartoonists, Cold War-era sporting contests pitting East Germany versus West Germany, and an in-depth examination of the song “Lili Marleen,” sung by troops of every nation during World War II. An audio guide in English is available. | Willy-Brandt-Allee 14 | 0228/91650 | www.hdg.de | Free | Tues.-Fri. 9-7, weekends 10-6.
Poppelsdorfer Schloss (Poppelsdorf Palace).
This former electors’ palace, built in the baroque style between 1715 and 1753, now houses the university’s mineralogical collection. Its botanical gardens are home to 12,000 species, among the largest variety in Germany. | Meckenheimer Allee 171 | 0228/732-764 | www.steinmann.uni-bonn.de/museen; www.botgart.uni-bonn.de | Mineralogical collection €2.50; botanical garden free weekdays, Sun. €3 | Mineralogical collection: Wed. and Fri. 3-6, Sun. 10-5. Botanical garden: Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6 (until 8 Thurs.); Nov.-Mar., weekdays 10-4.
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | GERMAN | Beethoven was a regular at this tavern, which has been around since the late 14th century. Today it offers one of the best-value lunches in town, and the kitchen stays open until 1 am. The interior is rustic, the food hearty and non-fussy. | Average main: €16 | Markt 4 | 0228/690-009 | www.em-hoettche.de.
$$$ | ITALIAN | When the Bundestag was still in town, this Bonn institution used to be cited in the press as frequently for its backroom political dealings as for its Lombardy-influenced food. Locals, prominent and otherwise, still flock to the restaurant, in an 18th-century house in the suburb of Kessenich. The style is pure Italian farmhouse, with stone walls and exposed beams, but the handmade pastas often stray from the typical, as in the salmon-filled black-and-white pasta pockets in shrimp sauce. | Average main: €25 | Karthäuserpl. 21 | 0228/530-815 | www.ristorante-sassella.de | Closed Mon. No lunch Sat., no dinner Sun. | Reservations essential.
Fodor’s Choice | Strandhaus.
$$$$ | EUROPEAN | On a quiet residential street, and hidden from view in summer by an ivy-covered patio, this restaurant feels like a true escape—befitting its laid-back name (“beach house”). The chef insists on local produce, and presents her delicate, innovatively spiced food with elegance, but no fuss. A carefully compiled wine list long on Geman bottles, along with a frequently changing menu, means locals come here often. | Average main: €27 | Georgstr. 28 | 0228/369-4949 | www.strandhaus-bonn.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch.
WHERE TO STAY
Best Western Domicil.
$$$ | HOTEL | A group of buildings around a quiet, central courtyard has been converted into a charming and comfortable hotel, with rooms individually furnished and decorated in styles ranging from fin de siècle romantic to Italian modern. Huge windows help make the public rooms feel airy. Pros: quiet courtyard; handy to the train station. Cons: plain exterior. | Rooms from: €195 | Thomas-Mann-Str. 24-26 | 0228/729-090 | domicil-bonn.bestwestern.de | 43 rooms, 1 apartment | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | Elegant on the outside and simple on the inside, this small, attractive hotel is often recommended to friends by locals. Part of its appeal is its location amid traditional townhouses in the romantic, residential “musician’s quarter,” a four-minute walk from the main train station and the city center. Pros: quiet tree-lined street; close to the train station. Cons: thin walls. | Rooms from: €105 | Mozartstr. 1 | 0228/659-071 | www.hotel-mozart-bonn.com | 38 rooms | Breakfast.
$$$ | HOTEL | For solid comfort and a picturesque, central location, the Sternhotel is tops—and their weekend rates are a bargain. Rooms are in a Danish-modern style. Pros: in the center of town; partnership with gym across the square, allowing guests free entry. Cons: market square location can be noisy in the morning; expensive for the area. | Rooms from: €185 | Markt 8 | 0228/72670 | www.sternhotel-bonn.de | 80 rooms | Breakfast.
The Bonn Beethoven Orchestra opens its season in grand style every year in late summer as part of Beethovenfest Bonn. Many of its concerts are held in the Beethovenhalle. | Wachsbleiche 16 | 0228/72220 | www.beethovenhalle.de.
In the Beethoven-Haus, recitals are sometimes given on a 19th-century grand piano, and concerts take place regularly in the chamber music hall. | Bonng. 20 | 0228/981-750 | www.beethoven-haus-bonn.de.
This is a major venue for comedy and cabaret. | Bundeskanzlerpl. 2-10 | 0228/212-521 | www.pantheon.de.
Chamber-music concerts are given regularly at the Schumannhaus, where composer Robert Schumann spent his final years. | Sebastianstr. 182 | 0228/773-656 | www.schumannhaus-bonn.de.
Operas are staged regularly at the Theater Bonn, which also hosts musicals and performances by world-renowned dance companies, including ballet. | Am Boeselagerhof 1 | 0228/778-000 | www.theater-bonn.de.
There are plenty of department stores and boutiques in the pedestrian shopping zone around the Markt and the Münster.
Flohmarkt (Flea Market).
Bargain hunters search for secondhand goods and knickknacks at the city’s renowned—and huge—flea market. It’s held in Rheinaue south of the Konrad-Adenauer-Brücke on the third Saturday of each month from March through October. | Rheinaue | www.flohmarkt-rheinaue.de.
Wochenmarkt (Weekly Market).
Bonn’s Wochenmarkt is open every day but Sunday, filling the Markt with vendors of produce and various edibles. Things get really busy in springtime, when the locals flock to find the best asparagus. | Markt.
12 km (7 miles) southeast of Bonn.
Home to one of Germany’s most popular castles, Drachenfels, Königswinter is also the gateway to the 30 large and small hills that make up the Siebengebirge, the country’s oldest nature reserve. In early May, festivities and fireworks light up the town as part of the “Rhine in Flames” fireworks display.
Getting Here and Around
Königswinter is 15 minutes south of Bonn by car. It can also be reached by a 40-minute train ride (via Regionalbahn) from Köln.
Siebengebirge Tourist Office. | Drachenfelsstr. 51 | 02223/917-711 | www.siebengebirge.com.
The town of Königswinter has one of the most visited castles on the Rhine, the Drachenfels. Its ruins crown one of the highest hills in the Siebengebirge, with a spectacular view of the Rhine. It’s also part of Germany’s oldest nature reserve, with more than 100 km (62 miles) of hiking trails. The castle was built in the 12th century by the archbishop of Köln, and takes its name from a dragon said to have lived in a nearby cave. (The dragon was slain by Siegfried, hero of the epic Nibelungenlied.)
The castle ruins can be reached via two different hikes, each of about 45 minutes. One route begins at the Drachenfelsbahn station, and passes the Nibelungenhalle reptile zoo along the way. The other route starts at Rhöndorf on the other side of the hill. The Siebengebirge Tourist Office at Drachenfelsstrasse 51 in Königswinter can provide a map that includes these and other local hiking trails. | Königswinter | Free | Always accessible.
If hiking to Drachenfels isn’t for you, you can also reach the castle ruins by taking the Drachenfelsbahn, a steep, narrow-gauge train that makes trips to the summit every half hour March through October, and hourly in January and February. | Drachenfelsstr. 53 | 02223/92090 | www.drachenfelsbahn-koenigswinter.de | €10 round-trip | Mar. and Oct., daily 10-6; Apr., daily 10-7; May-Sept., daily 9-7; early Nov., Jan., and Feb., weekdays noon-5, weekends 11-6.
Königswinter’s huge aquarium features 2,000 creatures from the sea. The biggest pool has a glass tunnel that enables you to walk on the “bottom of the sea.” | Rheinallee 8 | 0180/6666-90101 tickets; €0.20-€0.60 per call | www.visitsealife.com | €14.95 | Late Mar.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-late Mar., weekdays 10-5, weekends 10-6.
20 km (12 miles) northwest of Bonn.
In the center of Brühl stands the Rhineland’s most important baroque palace, the Augustusburg. Brühl is also home to one of Germany’s most popular theme parks, Phantasialand.
This small castle, at the end of an avenue leading under the tracks across from Schloss Augustusburg’s grounds, was built as a getaway where the prince could indulge his passion for falconry. | Otto-Wels-Str. | 02232/44000 | www.schlossbruehl.de | €6 | Feb.-Nov., Tues.-Fri. 9-noon and 1:30-4, weekends 10-5.
This castle and the magnificent pleasure park that surrounds it were created in the time of Prince Clemens August, between 1725 and 1768. The palace contains one of the most famous achievements of rococo architecture, a staircase by Balthasar Neumann. The castle can be visited only on guided tours, which leave the reception area every hour or so. An English-language recorded tour is available. | Max-Ernst-Allee | 02232/44000 | www.schlossbruehl.de | €8 | Feb.-Nov., Tues.-Fri. 9-noon and 1:30-4, weekends 10-5.
28 km (17 miles) north of Bonn, 47 km (29 miles) south of Düsseldorf, 70 km (43 miles) southeast of Aachen.
Köln (Cologne in English) is the largest city on the Rhine (the fourth largest in Germany) and one of the most interesting. The city is vibrant and bustling, with a lightness and cheerfulness that’s typical of the Rhineland. At its heart is tradition, manifested in the abundance of bars and brew houses serving the local Kölsch beer and old Rhine cuisine. These are good meeting places to start a night on the town. Tradition, however, is mixed with the contemporary, found in a host of elegant shops, sophisticated restaurants, modern bars and dance clubs, and a contemporary-art scene that’s now just hanging on against unstoppable competition from Berlin.
Although not as old as Trier, Köln has been a dominant power in the Rhineland since Roman times, and it remains a major commercial, intellectual, and ecclesiastical center. Köln was first settled in 38 BC. For nearly a century it grew slowly, in the shadow of imperial Trier, until a locally born noblewoman, Julia Agrippina, daughter of the Roman general Germanicus, married the Roman emperor Claudius. Her hometown was elevated to the rank of a Roman city and given the name Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (Claudius Colony at the Altar of Agrippina). For the next 300 years Colonia (hence Cologne, or Köln) flourished. Evidence of the Roman city’s wealth resides in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum. In the 9th century Charlemagne, the towering figure who united the sprawling German lands (and ruled much of present-day France) as the first Holy Roman Emperor, restored Köln’s fortunes and elevated it to its preeminent role in the Rhineland by appointing the first archbishop of Köln. The city’s ecclesiastical heritage is one of its most striking features; it has a full dozen Romanesque churches and one of the world’s largest and finest Gothic cathedrals. In the Middle Ages it was a member of the powerful Hanseatic League, occupying a position of greater importance in European commerce than either London or Paris.
Köln was a thriving modern city until World War II, when bombings destroyed 90% of it. Only the cathedral remained relatively unscathed. Like many other German cities that rebounded during the “Economic Miracle” of the 1950s, Köln is a mishmash of old and new, sometimes awkwardly juxtaposed. A good part of the former Old Town along the Hohe Strasse (old Roman High Road) was turned into a remarkably charmless pedestrian shopping mall. It’s all framed by six-lane expressways winding along the rim of the city center—barely yards from the cathedral—illustrating the problems of postwar reconstruction. However, much of the Altstadt, ringed by streets that follow the line of the medieval city walls, is closed to traffic. Most major sights are within this area and are easily reached on foot. Here, too, you’ll find the best shops.
Getting Here and Around
As one of Germany’s most important railroad hubs, Köln is connected by fast trains to cities throughout northwestern Europe, including Paris, Brussels, and Frankfurt. The German railroad network links Köln to the entire nation. You can reach Köln from Bonn in about 20 minutes, and Brühl in about 15.
Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom.
Of Cologne’s four main Christmas markets the Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom, in the shadow of the city’s famed cathedral, is the most impressive. Set against the backdrop of the church’s magnificent twin spires, a giant Christmas tree stands proudly in the middle of the market’s 160 festively adorned stalls, which sell mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, and many other German yuletide treats. | www.koelnerweihnachtsmarkt.com | Late Nov.-Dec. 23, Sun.-Wed. 11-9, Thurs. and Fri. 11-10, Sat. 10-10.
Bus trips into the countryside (to the Eifel Hills, the Ahr Valley, and the Westerwald) are organized by several city travel agencies.
City Bus Tours.
The 90-minute tours, conducted in English and German, leave year-round from the tourist office next to the cathedral. There are departures every half hour between 10 am and 4 pm, from Wednesday to Sunday, and once every two hours on Monday and Tuesday. | Köln | €12-€15.
Radstation Köln Bike Tours.
In addition to their bike rentals, Radstation Köln conduct three-hour bike tours of the city, departing daily at 1:30 pm. | Köln Hauptbahnhof (Cologne Central Station) or Markmannsg. next to Deutzer Brücke | Köln | 0221/139-7190 | www.radstationkoeln.de | €17.50.
From mid-June to September, a 90-minute English-language walking tour leaves from the tourist office every Saturday at 3 pm. Additional walking tours in English are often available by arrangement with the tourist office. | Köln | €11.
Discounts and Deals
Most central hotels sell the Köln Card (€9 for one day, €18 for two days), which entitles you to discounts on sightseeing tours, admissions to all the city’s museums, free city bus and tram travel, and other reductions.
Köln Tourismus Office. | Kardinal-Höffner-Pl. 1 | Köln | 0221/346-430 | www.cologne-tourism.com.
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Fodor’s Choice | Dom (Cathedral).
Köln’s landmark embodies one of the purest expressions of the Gothic spirit in Europe. The cathedral, meant to be a tangible expression of God’s kingdom on Earth, was conceived with such immense dimensions that construction, begun in 1248, was not completed until 1880, after the original plan was rediscovered. At 515 feet high, the two west towers of the cathedral were briefly the tallest structures in the world when they were finished (before being eclipsed by the Washington Monument). The cathedral was built to house what are believed to be the relics of the Magi, the three kings who paid homage to the infant Jesus (the trade in holy mementos was big business in the Middle Ages—and not always scrupulous). The size of the building was not simply an example of self-aggrandizement on the part of the people of Köln, however; it was a response to the vast numbers of pilgrims who arrived to see the relics. The ambulatory, the passage that curves around the back of the altar, is unusually large, allowing cathedral authorities to funnel large numbers of visitors up to the crossing (where the nave and transepts meet and where the relics were originally displayed), around the back of the altar, and out again.
Today the relics are kept just behind the altar, in the original, enormous gold-and-silver reliquary. The other great treasure of the cathedral, in the last chapel on the left as you face the altar, is the Gero Cross, a monumental oak crucifix dating from 971. The Altar of the City Patrons (1440), a triptych by Stephan Lochner, Köln’s most famous medieval painter, is to the right. Other highlights are the stained-glass windows, some dating from the 13th century and another, designed by Gerhard Richter with help from a computer program, from the 21st; the 15th-century altarpiece; and the early-14th-century high altar, with its glistening white figures and intricate choir screens. If you’re up to it, climb to the top of the bell tower to get the complete vertical experience (but be aware that viewing Köln from the Dom itself removes the skyline’s most interesting feature). The treasury includes the silver shrine of Archbishop Engelbert, who was stabbed to death in 1225. Allow at least an hour for the whole tour of the interior, treasury, and tower climb. | Dompl., Altstadt | 0221/9258-4730 | www.koelner-dom.de | Tower €4, cathedral treasury €6, guided tours €7 | May-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 6 am-9 pm, Sun. 1-4:30; Nov.-Apr., Mon.-Sat. 6 am-7:30 pm, Sun. 1-4:30. Tower and stairwell: May-Sept., daily 9-6; Mar., Apr., and Oct., daily 9-5; Nov.-Feb., daily 9-4. Treasury: daily 10-6. Guided tours in English Mon.-Sat. at 10:30 and 2:30, Sun. at 2:30.
This museum is dedicated to art from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. Its American pop-art collection (including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and Roy Lichtenstein) rivals that of most American museums. | Heinrich-Böll-Pl., Innenstadt | 0221/2212-6165 | www.museum-ludwig.de | €11 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6; 1st Thurs. of every month 10-10. Closed 1 wk during Karneval, mid-Feb.-early Mar.
Fodor’s Choice | Römisch-Germanisches Museum (Roman-Germanic Museum).
This cultural landmark was built in the early 1970s around the famous Dionysius mosaic discovered here during the construction of an air-raid shelter in 1941. The huge mosaic, more than 800 square feet, once formed the dining-room floor of a wealthy Roman trader’s villa. Its millions of tiny earthenware and glass tiles depict some of the adventures of Dionysius, the Greek god of wine. The pillared 1st-century tomb of Lucius Publicius (a prominent Roman officer), some stone Roman coffins, and everyday objects of Roman life are among the museum’s other exhibits. Bordering the museum on the south is a restored 90-yard stretch of the old Roman harbor road. | Roncallipl. 4, Altstadt | 0221/2212-4438 | www.roemisch-germanisches-museum.de | €9 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5, 1st Thurs. of every month 10-10.
This museum contains paintings spanning the years 1300 to 1900. The Dutch and Flemish schools are particularly well represented, as is the 15th- to 16th-century Köln school of German painting. Its two most famous artists are the Master of the St. Veronica (whose actual name is unknown) and Stefan Lochner, represented by two luminous works, The Last Judgment and The Madonna in the Rose Bower. Large canvases by Rubens, who spent his youth in Köln, hang prominently on the second floor. There are also outstanding works by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Frans Hals, and the largest collection of French impressionism in Germany. | Obenmarspforten, Altstadt | 0221/2212-1119 | www.wallraf.museum | €8 | Daily 10-6 (to 9 Thurs.).
Karneval in Köln
As the biggest city in the traditionally Catholic Rhineland, Köln puts on Germany’s most exciting and rowdy carnival. The Kölsch starts flowing on November 11 at 11:11 am with screams of the famous motto Kölle alaaf! (“Köln is alive!”). Karneval then calms down for a few months, only to reach a fever pitch in February for the last five days before Lent. On Fat Thursday, known as Weiberfastnacht, women roam the streets with scissors and exercise merciless precision in cutting off the ties of any men foolish enough to wear them. Starting then, bands, parades, and parties go all night, and people of all ages don silly costumes, including the customary red clown nose. It’s a good time to meet new people; in fact, it is practically impossible not to, as kissing strangers is considered par for the course. TIP During this time, visitors who are claustrophobic or who don’t want to risk having beer spilled on them should avoid the Heumarkt area in the Old Town, and possibly the whole city. The festivities come to an end Tuesday at midnight with the ritual burning of the “Nubbel”—a dummy that acts as the scapegoat for everyone’s drunken, embarrassing behavior. Note: Many museums are closed during Karneval.
Alter Markt (Old Market).
The square has an eclectic assembly of buildings, most of them postwar. However, two 16th-century houses survived the war intact—Nos. 20 and 22, which are today a Kölsch brewpub. The oldest structure dates from 1135. In late November and December, Alter Markt is the site of one of the city’s prettiest Christmas markets. | Altstadt.
Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall).
The Rathaus is worth a look, even from the outside. (Tours of the interior, for groups only, must be booked at the tourist office.) It’s the oldest town hall in Germany, with elements remaining from the 14th century. The famous bell tower rings its bells daily at 9 am, noon, 3 pm, and 6 pm. Standing on pedestals at one end of the town hall are figures of prophets made in the early 15th century. Ranging along the south wall are nine additional statues, the so-called Nine Good Heroes, carved in 1360. Charlemagne, Alexander the Great, and King David are among them. Sculptures of 124 later Cologne heroes, up through the 20th century, have been added outside at the Town Hall Tower. | Rathauspl. 2, Altstadt | 0221/2212-3332.
Gross St. Martin (Great St. Martin).
This remarkable Romanesque parish church was rebuilt after being flattened in World War II. Its massive 13th-century tower, with distinctive corner turrets and an imposing central spire, is another Köln landmark. The church was built on the site of a Roman granary. | Martinspförtchen 8, Altstadt | 0221/2779-4747 | www.romanische-kirchen-koeln.de | Sept.-July, Tues.-Fri. 9-7:30, weekends 10-7:30; Aug., Tues.-Sun. 2-6.
This Gothic structure at the south end of Martinsviertel was all but demolished in World War II, but carefully reconstructed afterward. It’s named after a medieval knight from whom the city acquired valuable real estate in 1437. The official reception and festival hall here has played a central role in civic life through the centuries. At one end of the complex are the remains of the 10th-century Gothic church of St. Alban, which were left ruined after the war as a memorial. On what’s left of the church floor you can see a sculpture of a couple kneeling in prayer, Mourning Parents, by Käthe Kollwitz, a memorial to the ravages of war. | Martinstr. 29-37, Altstadt | www.koelnkongress.de.
Käthe Kollwitz Museum.
The works of Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), the most important German female artist of the 20th century, focus on social themes like the plight of the poor and the atrocities of war. This is the larger of the country’s two Kollwitz collections and comprises all of her woodcuts, as well as paintings, etchings, lithographs, and sculptures. There are also changing exhibits of other modern artists. | Neumarkt 18-24, in Neumarkt Passage, Innenstadt | 0221/227-2899 | www.kollwitz.de | €4 | Tues.-Fri. 10-6, weekends 11-6.
Kölnisches Stadtmuseum (Cologne City Museum).
The triumphs and tragedies of Köln’s rich past are packed into this museum at the historic Zeughaus, the city’s former arsenal. Here you’ll find an in-depth chronicle of Köln’s history—including information about the lives of ordinary people and high-profile politicians, the industrial revolution (car manufacturer Henry Ford headquartered his European operations here), and the destruction incurred during World War II. For those who’ve always wanted to be privy to the inside stories surrounding local words such as Klüngel, Kölsch, and Karneval, the answers are waiting to be discovered within the museum’s walls. | Zeughausstr. 1-3, Altstadt | 0221/2212-5789 | www.museenkoeln.de | €5 | Wed.-Sun. 10-5, Tues. 10-8, first Thurs. of every month 10-10.
The origins of the official art museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne stretch back to 1853, but the institution received a big boost in 2007, with the opening of a unique new home atop—and masterfully incorporating— the ruins of the Gothic parish church of St. Kolumba. Designed by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, the new building pays homage to the site’s Roman, Gothic, and medieval heritage, while unstuffily presenting a collection of art spanning from late antiquity to the present. | Kolumbastr. 4, Innenstadt | 0221/933-1930 | www.kolumba.de | €5 | Wed.-Mon. noon-5.
A treasure house of medieval art from the Rhine region, the museum has an ideal setting in a 12th-century basilica. Don’t miss the crucifix from the St. Georg Kirche or the original stained-glass windows and carved figures from the Dom. Other exhibits include intricately carved ivory book covers, rock-crystal reliquaries, and illuminated manuscripts. | Cäcilienstr. 29, Innenstadt | 0221/2213-1355 | www.museum-schnuetgen.de | €6 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 (to 8 Thurs.), 1st Thurs. of every month 10-10.
QUICK BITES: Café Stanton.
Köln’s main pedestrian shopping street is practical but uninspiring—some even say ugly. This café is an airy, artsy oasis with outdoor terrace seating and a view of the 14th-century Antonite church. The food is international with an emphasis on the Mediterranean, and includes many organic, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. The selection of cakes is divinely German, and there’s a jazz dinner every Saturday. Three enormous, delicate chandeliers, made entirely of plastic waste, provide lighting. | Schilderg. 57 | Köln | 0221/271-0710 | www.cafe-stanton.de.
This exquisite Romanesque basilica stands on the site of an old Roman burial ground six blocks west of the train station. An enormous dome rests on walls that were once clad in gold mosaics. Roman masonry forms part of the medieval structure, which is believed to have been built over the grave of its namesake, the 4th-century martyr and Köln’s patron. | Gereonskloster 2-4, Altstadt | 0221/474-5070 | www.stgereon.de | Free | Weekdays 10-6, Sat. 10-5:30, Sun. 1-6.
The most lavish of the churches from the late-Romanesque period is by the Rhine, three blocks north of the train station. The apse’s precious stained-glass windows have filtered light for more than 750 years (they were put in protective storage during World War II). Consecrated in 1247, the church contains an unusual room, concealed under the altar, which gives access to a pre-Christian well once believed to promote fertility in women. | Kunibertsklosterg. 2, Altstadt | 0221/121-214 | www.basilika-st-kunibert.de | Free | Mon.-Sat. 10-1 and 3-6, Sun. 3-6.
St. Maria im Kapitol.
Built in the 11th and 12th centuries on the site of a Roman temple, St. Maria is best known for its two beautifully carved 16-foot-high doors and its enormous crypt, the second-largest in Germany. The powerful organ shakes the building. | Marienpl. 17-19, Altstadt | 0221/214-615 | www.maria-im-kapitol.de | Free | Mon.-Sat. 9-6, Sun. 11:30-6.
Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate Museum).
This riverside museum south of the cathedral is a real hit, and so crowded on weekends that it can be unpleasant. It recounts 3,000 years of civilization’s production and enjoyment of chocolate, from the Central American Maya to the colonizing and industrializing Europeans. It’s also a real factory, with lava flows of chocolate and a conveyer belt jostling thousands of truffles, but that’s not open to view. The museum shop, with a huge variety of chocolate items, does a brisk business, and the riverside panorama café serves some of the best cake in town. | Am Schockoladenmuseum 1a, Rheinufer | 0221/931-8880 | www.schokoladenmuseum.de | €9 | Tues.-Fri. 10-6, weekends 11-7.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | EUROPEAN | For three decades, writers and artists from Köln’s elegant Agnesviertel neighborhood have been meeting at this cosy locale on a quiet, tree-lined street. Inside, the ambience—like a little corner of Montmartre—is just right for thinking deep thoughts, or simply chatting over a slice of chocolate cake. Even when the cake’s all gone, night owls can enjoy the café’s delicious Camembert and lingonberry blintzes. | Average main: €7 | Weissenburgstr. 50 | Köln | 0221/734-520 | No credit cards.
Fodor’s Choice | Capricorn i Aries.
$$$ | FRENCH | This corner brasserie—part neighborhood bistro, part upscale restaurant—serves the staples of French rural cuisine with a Rhineland twist, whether it’s a simple soup or a five-course dinner. The owners’ highly regarded four-table restaurant across the street is also available for special events. Those aiming to improve their own skills can participate in a Sunday cooking class, in which students prepare and then eat four courses. | Average main: €22 | Alteburger Str. 31, Neustadt-Süd | 0221/397-5710 | www.capricorniaries.com | No credit cards | Closed Wed. and Sun. No lunch Sat. | Reservations essential.
Fodor’s Choice | Casa di Biase.
$$$$ | ITALIAN | The sophisticated Italian cuisine is served here in a warm, elegant setting on the city’s southwest side. The seasonally changing menu focuses on fish and game, and the wine list is interesting and extensive—although sometimes pricey. | Average main: €26 | Eifelpl. 4, Südstadt | 0221/322-433 | www.casadibiase.de | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat.
Früh am Dom.
$ | GERMAN | For real down-home German cooking, few places in Köln compare to this time-honored former brewery in the shadow of the Dom. It’s often crowded, but the mood’s fantastic. Bold frescoes on the vaulted ceilings establish that mood, and the authentically Teutonic experience is completed by such dishes as Hämmchen (pork knuckle). The beer garden is perfect for summer dining. | Average main: €14 | Am Hof 12-18, Altstadt | 0221/261-3215 | www.frueh-am-dom.de | No credit cards.
Heising & Adelmann.
$$$ | ECLECTIC | A young crowd gathers here to do what people along the Rhine have done for centuries—talk, drink, and enjoy good company. There’s a party every Friday and Saturday with a DJ. Consistently voted one of the best deals in town, this restaurant offers good German beer, tangy cocktails, and a creative mixture of German and French food. | Average main: €22 | Friesenstr. 58-60, Neustadt-Nord | 0221/130-9424 | www.heising-und-adelmann.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch.
$ | GERMAN | There’s no better Bräuhaus in Köln for drinking Kölsch, the city’s home brew. You won’t sit long in front of an empty glass before a blue-aproned waiter sweeps by and places another one before you. With its worn wooden interior, colorful clientele, and typical Rhenish fare (sauerbraten, pork knuckle, and potato pancakes), Päffgen sums up local tradition. The brewery is the family business of the late singer-actress Nico, née Christa Päffgen, who became famous in the ‘60s through her collaborations with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. | Average main: €11 | Friesenstr. 64-66, Friesenviertel | 0221/135-461 | www.paeffgen-koelsch.de | No credit cards.
WHERE TO STAY
The tourist office, across from the cathedral, can make hotel bookings for you for the same night, at a cost of €3 per booking. If you plan to be in town for Karneval, be sure to reserve a room well in advance.
Das Kleine Stapelhäuschen.
$$ | B&B/INN | One of few medieval houses along the riverbank to survive World War II bombings, this family-run inn enjoys an unbeatable location overlooking the river and right by Gross St. Martin. The hotel’s quaintly furnished rooms are far from luxurious, but the place wins points for its history and reasonable prices. Ancient wooden beams grace some of the older rooms, but claustrophobic guests are advised to take up quarters in the “new” rooms. The inn’s antique restaurant downstairs offers authentic Rhenish flair and spruced-up versions of traditional German dishes. Pros: right on the Rhine. Cons: somewhat down at the heels; nearly half of the rooms don’t have an en-suite bathroom. | Rooms from: €140 | Fischmarkt 1-3, Altstadt | 0221/272-7777 | www.kleines-stapelhäuschen.de | 31 rooms | Breakfast.
Excelsior Hotel Ernst.
$$$$ | HOTEL | Old-master paintings, including a Van Dyck, grace this 1863 hotel’s sumptuous Empire-style lobby, while Gobelins tapestries hang in the ballroom; the rooms are spacious, and the deluxe category of rooms melds old-world elegance with modern sophistication. During the afternoon, a tea sommelier can guide you through the high-tea brews in the classic hotel bar, which has live piano music six nights a week. The hotel’s Taku Restaurant specializes in pan-Asian cuisine. Pros: Van Dyck paintings and Gobelins tapestries; steps from both the train station and Dom. Cons: expensive. | Rooms from: €270 | Domplatz, Trankg. 1, Altstadt | 0221/2701 | www.excelsiorhotelernst.de | 114 rooms, 26 suites | No meals.
Hopper Hotel et cetera.
$$ | HOTEL | The rooms in this former monastery in the Belgian Quarter are spare but not spartan, though a startlingly realistic sculpture of a bishop, sitting in the reception area, serves as a constant reminder of the building’s ecclesiastic origins. Modern paintings by Köln artists adorn the walls of the hotel, on a quiet street lined with ginkgo trees. The rooms are not huge but are well kept, and the atmosphere is airy. The smartly appointed restaurant Et Cetera serves upscale Mediterranean cuisine and has delightful garden seating. Pros: chic renovation; attractive neighborhood. Cons: not centrally located; showers tricky for older guests. | Rooms from: €130 | Brüsselerstr. 26, Belgisches Viertel | 0221/924-400 | www.hopper.de | 48 rooms, 1 suite, 1 apartment | Breakfast.
$ | HOTEL | This designer hotel with classic modern furnishings has a strong following among artists and art dealers, as well as with the musicians who come to play at the nearby Stadtgarten jazz club. Breakfast is served in the hotel’s sleek Cafe Central. The rooms are well lit, and each has its own quirks, including original minimalist murals and some bizarre, avant-garde layouts. Pros: an artsy clientele and neighborhood. Cons: some rooms need freshening up; a few rooms don’t have their own bathroom. | Rooms from: €98 | Jülicherstr. 1, Belgisches Viertel | 0221/207-150 | www.hotel-chelsea.de | 35 rooms, 3 suites, 1 apartment | No meals.
Hotel im Kupferkessel.
$ | HOTEL | The best things about this small, unassuming, family-run hotel are its immaculate housekeeping—the very model of German fastidiousness—and the price (small single rooms with shared bath can be had for as little as €45). Fresh flowers smarten up the rustic breakfast area, while the no-frills rooms are sunny, nicely renovated, and very functional. The direct surroundings aren’t action-packed, but the hotel is in the shadow of St. Gereon church and a 15-minute walk to the Dom. Be prepared to deal with stairs here, as most rooms are on the third and fourth floors. Pros: inexpensive, and breakfast is included. Cons: no elevator and four stories; some rooms don’t have their own bathroom. | Rooms from: €82 | Probsteig. 6, Altstadt | 0221/270-7960 | www.im-kupferkessel.de | 12 rooms | Breakfast.
Hotel im Wasserturm.
$$ | HOTEL | What used to be Europe’s tallest water tower is now an independent, 11-story luxury hotel that’s welcomed guests like Brad Pitt and fashion mogul Wolfgang Joop. The neoclassical look of the 140-year-old brick exterior remains, while the interior is modern and sedately restful. Visitors to the restaurant “Himmel un Äd” will find creative and modern European cuisine, plus a wraparound balcony with an expansive view of the city. For lighter fare, the hotel runs the bizarrely named d/\blju ‘W’ on the ground floor. The only thing left to be desired is a huge pool, but swim fanatics can head to the Agrippabad, next door. Pros: modern luxury at its finest. Cons: expensive breakfast. | Rooms from: €174 | Kayg. 2, Altstadt | 0221/20080 | www.hotel-im-wasserturm.de | 45 rooms, 33 suites | No meals.
Hotel Pullman Cologne.
$$ | HOTEL | One of the city’s favorite business hotels, the 12-story Pullman Cologne draws tourists from around the world too with its welcoming vibe and unexpectedly lighthearted flair. Pros: great location; 90 rooms with Dom views; very helpful and friendly staff. Cons: standard rooms are small. | Rooms from: €148 | Helenenstr. 14, Altstadt | 0221/275-2200 | www.pullmanhotels.com | 265 rooms, 10 suites | No meals.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
Tickets to most arts events can be purchased through Kölnticket. | 0221/2801 | www.koelnticket.de.
Köln’s nightlife is centered on three distinct areas: along the river in the Old Town, which seems to be one big party on weekends; on Zulpicherstrasse near the university; and around the Friesenplatz U-bahn station. Many streets off the Hohenzollernring and Hohenstaufenring, particularly Roonstrasse and Aachenerstrasse, also provide a broad range of nightlife. In summer the Martinsviertel, a part of the Altstadt around the Gross St. Martin church, which is full of restaurants, brew houses, and Kneipen (pubs), is a good place to go around sunset.
Papa Joe’s Em Streckstrump.
For live jazz, head to the tiny Papa Joe’s Jazzlokale, where there’s never a cover charge. | Buttermarkt 37, Altstadt | 0221/257-7931 | www.papajoes.de.
Papa Joe’s Klimperkasten.
This classic, kitschy, roaring twenties-style Altstadt biersalon plays oldies from Piaf to Porter. | Alter Markt 50-52, Altstadt | 0221/258-2132 | www.papajoes.de.
In summer, head straight for the Stadtgarten and sit in the Biergarten for some good outdoor Gemütlichkeit (coziness). At other times of the year it’s still worth a visit for its excellent jazz club. Stadtgarten also runs a beer garden with cheap, tasty eats in the shaded Rathenauplatz park, by Köln’s synagogue. | Venloerstr. 40, Altstadt | 0221/952-9940 | www.stadtgarten.de.
Organ recitals and chamber concerts are presented in many of the Romanesque churches around town, and in the Gothic Antoniterkirche. | Schilderg. 57, Innenstadt | 0221/9258-4615 | www.antonitercitykirche.de.
Oper der Stadt Köln.
Köln’s opera company is known for exciting classical and contemporary productions, including collaborative efforts with the French fashion designer Christian Lacroix. The opera house on Offenbachplatz, originally scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2015 after a major multiyear renovation, is now expected to return in 2016. | Offenbachpl., Innenstadt | 0221/2212-8400 | www.oper.koeln.
Köln’s WDR Sinfonieorchester performs regularly in the city’s excellent concert hall. | Bischofsgartenstr. 1, Altstadt | 0221/204-080 | www.koelner-philharmonie.de.
Köln’s principal theater is the Schauspielhaus, home to the 20 or so private theater companies in the city. Until its main space on Offenbachplatz reopens in 2016 after a major renovation, Schauspielhaus productions take place at an industrial space (Carlswerk, Schanzenstrasse 6-20) in the Mülheim neighborhood. | Offenbachpl., Innenstadt | 0221/2212-8400 | www.schauspielkoeln.de.
A good shopping loop begins at the Neumarkt Galerie. From there, head down the charmless but practical pedestrian shopping zone of the Schildergasse. From Schildergasse, go north on Herzogstrasse to arrive at Glockengasse. A block north is Breite Strasse, another pedestrian shopping street. At the end of Breite Strasse is Ehrenstrasse, where the young and young-at-heart can shop for hip fashions and trendy housewares. After a poke around here, explore the small boutiques on Benesisstrasse, which will lead you to Mittelstrasse, best known for high-tone German fashions and luxury goods. Follow Mittelstrasse to the end to return to the Neumarkt. For some of the city’s coolest shopping, head a few blocks farther west to the Belgian Quarter, where you’ll find a hodgepodge of indie fashion designers, concept shops, and secondhand stores.
Köln’s most celebrated product, Eau de Cologne No. 4711, was first concocted here by the 18th-century Italian chemist Johann Maria Farina. At the company’s flagship store there’s a small exhibition of historical 4711 bottles, as well as a perfume fountain in which you can dip your fingers. | House of 4711, Glockeng. 4, Innenstadt | 0221/2709-9910 | www.4711.com.
This bright, modern indoor shopping arcade has a web of shops and cafés (including the city’s only Primark) surrounding an airy atrium. Just look for the huge sculpture of an upside-down ice cream cone above the entrance. | Richmodstr. 8 | Köln | www.neumarktgalerie.com | Closed Sun.
Peek & Cloppenburg.
This big clothing store is a highlight of Shildergasse. Designed by the architect Renzo Piano, the building looks like a spaceship, and its selection of fashions—for men and women, from budget to couture—is out of this world. | Schilderg. 65-67, Innenstadt | 0221/453-900 | www.peek-cloppenburg.com.
70 km (43 miles) west of Köln.
At the center of Aachen, the characteristic three-window-wide facades give way to buildings dating from the days when Charlemagne made Aix-la-Chapelle (as it was then called) the great center of the Holy Roman Empire. Thirty-two German emperors were crowned here, gracing Aachen with the proud nickname “Kaiserstadt” (Emperors’ City). Roman legions had been drawn here for the healing properties of the sulfur springs emanating from the nearby Eifel Mountains. (The name “Aachen,” based on an old Frankish word for “water,” alludes to this.) Charlemagne’s father, Pepin the Short, also settled here to enjoy the waters, and to this day the city is also known as Bad Aachen and is still drawing visitors in search of a cure. One-and-a-half-hour walking tours (€7) of the Altstadt depart from the tourist office throughout the year at 11 on weekends, as well as at 2 on weekdays from April to December. The Saturday tours are conducted in English (€9) as well as German.
Aachen Tourist-Information. | Friedrich-Wilhelm-Pl. | 0241/180-2960 | www.aachen.de.
Despite its name, this museum, which opened in 2014, doesn’t just pay homage to Charlemagne, the man who put Aachen on the map in the 8th century. It also reveals Aachen’s much broader history, from Neolithic times to the present, including its Celto-Roman and baroque-era stints as a spa town, and its centuries as Holy Roman imperial coronation city. Multimedia stations help bring the past to life, and the interactive audio guide is highly recommended. | Katschhof 1 | 0241/432-4998 | www.centre-charlemagne.eu | €5 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Fodor’s Choice | Dom (Cathedral).
Aachen’s stunning cathedral, the “Chapelle” of the town’s earlier name of Aix-la-Chapelle, remains the single greatest storehouse of Carolingian architecture in Europe, and it was the first place in Germany to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though it was built over the course of 1,000 years and reflects architectural styles from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, its commanding image remains the magnificent octagonal royal chapel, rising up two arched stories to end in the cap of the dome. It was this section, the heart of the church, that Charlemagne saw completed in AD 800. His bones now lie in the Gothic choir, in a golden shrine surrounded by wonderful carvings of saints. Another treasure is his marble throne. Charlemagne had to journey all the way to Rome for his coronation, but the next 32 Holy Roman emperors were crowned here in Aachen, and each marked the occasion by presenting a lavish gift to the cathedral. In the 12th century Emperor Frederick I (aka Barbarossa) donated the great chandelier now hanging in the center of the Palatine chapel; his grandson, Friedrich II, donated Charlemagne’s shrine. English-language guided tours of the cathedral (€4) are offered daily at 2. | Münsterpl., Domhof 1 | 0241/477-090 | www.aachendom.de | Free | Apr.-Dec., daily 7-7; Jan.-Mar., daily 7-6.
Domschatzkammer (The Cathedral Treasury).
The cathedral houses sacred art from late antiquity and the Carolingian, Ottonian, and Hohenstaufen eras. A bust of Charlemagne on view here was commissioned in the late 14th century by Emperor Karl IV, who traveled here from Prague for the sole reason of having it made. The bust incorporates a piece of Charlemagne’s skull. Other highlights include the Cross of Lothair and the Persephone Sarcophagus. | Klosterpl. 2 | 0241/4770-9127 | www.aachendom.de/schatzkammer.html | €5 | Jan.-Mar., Mon. 10-1, Tues.-Sun. 10-5; Apr.-Dec., Mon. 10-1, Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Elisenbrunnen (Elisa Fountain).
Southeast of the cathedral and the site of the city’s tourist-information center is an arcaded, neoclassical structure built in 1822. The central pavilion contains two fountains with thermal water—the hottest north of the Alps—that is reputed to help cure a wide range of ailments in those who drink it. If you can brave a gulp of the sulfurous water, you’ll be emulating the likes of Dürer, Frederick the Great, and Charlemagne. | Friedrich-Wilhelm-Pl.
Rathaus (Town Hall).
Aachen’s town hall sits behind the Dom, across Katschhof Square. It was built in the early 14th century on the site of the Aula Regia, or “great hall,” of Charlemagne’s palace. Its first major official function was the coronation banquet of Emperor Karl IV in 1349, held in the great Gothic hall you can still see today (though this was largely rebuilt after World War II). On the north wall of the building are statues of 50 emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The greatest of them all, Charlemagne, stands in bronze atop the Karlsbrunnen in the center of the market square. | Marktpl. | 0241/432-7310 | rathaus-aachen.de | €5 | Daily 10-6.
Carolus-Thermen Bad Aachen.
If you’re a steam-lover, try this high-tech spa with a venerable history. In Dürer’s time there were regular crackdowns on the orgiastic goings-on at the baths. Today taking the waters is done with a bathing suit on, but be aware that the sauna area is a clothes-free zone. | Passstr. 79 | 0241/182-740 | www.carolus-thermen.de | Weekdays €12 for 2½ hrs, €26 with sauna, €18/€36 for full day; weekends €13/28 for 2½ hrs, €19/€38 for full day | Daily 9 am-11 pm.
Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst.
One of the world’s most important art collectors, chocolate magnate Peter Ludwig, endowed two museums in the town he called home. The Forum, the larger of the two, holds a portion of Ludwig’s enormous collection of contemporary art and hosts traveling exhibits. | Jülicher Str. 97-109 | 0241/180-7104 | www.ludwigforum.de | €5 | Tues.-Fri. noon-6 (to 8 Thurs.), weekends 11-6.
The smaller of the two Ludwig art institutions in town (the Ludwig Forum is the larger one) has a collection that concentrates paintings from the 12th to the early 20th century, including a sizable holding of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish works by the likes of Anthony Van Dyck and Frans Hals. It’s also home to one of Germany’s largest sculpture collections. | Wilhelmstr. 18 | 0241/479-8040 | www.suermondt-ludwig-museum.de | €5 | Tues.-Fri. noon-6 (to 8 Wed.), weekends 11-6.
WHERE TO EAT
$$ | GERMAN | At this Bierstube dating from 1698, you can dig into regional dishes like Zwiebelrahmrostbraten (onion meat loaf) at low wooden tables next to the tile stove. Pewter plates and beer mugs line the walls. | Average main: €16 | Bergdriesch 3 | 0241/33168 | www.amknipp.de | Closed Tues. Closed Dec. 24-Jan. 2, and 2 wks in Apr. and Oct. No lunch.
Fodor’s Choice | Der Postwagen.
$$ | GERMAN | This annex of the more upscale Ratskeller is worth a stop for the building alone, a half-timber medieval edifice at one corner of the old Rathaus. You’ll be impressed by the food as well, which also comes from the kitchen of the Ratskeller’s chef. Sitting at one of the low wooden tables, surveying the marketplace through the wavy old glass, you can dine well on solid German fare. If you really want to go local, try Himmel en Erd (mashed potatoes and apple sauce topped by panfried slices of blood sausage and onions). | Average main: €15 | Markt 40 | 0241/35001 | www.ratskeller-aachen.de.
$$$$ | FRENCH | The sophisticated French nouvelle cuisine and attentive staff here are a hit with upscale locals. The restaurant, which is named for the woodcock, has been in operation just outside the Old Town by the Westpark since 1981. Try the distinctively light veal kidney or the Wagyu steak. The five-course lunch menu (€36.50) changes daily. | Average main: €37 | Hanbrucherstr. 1 | 0241/74444 | www.labecasse.de | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. and Mon. | Reservations essential.
WHERE TO STAY
ibis Styles Aachen City.
$ | HOTEL | A 15-minute walk from the Dom, this colorfully furnished modern budget hotel is a good value, especially for families with children. The well-lit rooms don’t have much in them—generally just a bed, a small sitting space, and a TV—but Wi-Fi and domestic calls are included in the price, and there’s a video-game area in the spacious lobby. Pros: kids under 16 get their own room at half price. Cons: on a busy street somewhat removed from the center. | Rooms from: €89 | Jülicherstr. 10-12 | 0241/51060 | www.ibis.com | 102 rooms | Breakfast.
Pullmann Aachen Quellenhof.
$$ | HOTEL | This old-fashioned and grand hotel has rooms with high ceilings, a Roman-style spa area, and an inviting pool. High tea is served in the marvelous fireside hall. Flowers fill La Brasserie Restaurant, where light German and French dishes are served. Pros: spacious; elegant; formal. Cons: on a busy street. | Rooms from: €173 | Monheimsallee 52 | 0241/91320 | www.pullmanhotels.com | 180 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
Most activity in town is concentrated around the market square and Pontstrasse, a pedestrian street that radiates off the square.
Aachen’s most popular bar is a good place to mingle with locals of all ages at old wooden tables, enjoying an impressive selection of Belgian beers in a historic building from 1658. There are free concerts every Monday, apart from a short break in summer. | Hof 1 | 0241/34265 | www.domkeller.de.
This Irish pub has Murphy’s Stout on tap and on most nights, there’s live music starting at 8:30. It’s closed Sunday and Monday, except for special occasions. | Hirschgraben 13 | 0241/35453.
The Aachen Symphony, along with touring bands and orchestras from across Europe, give regular concerts in Aachen’s Eurogress convention center. | Monheimsallee 48 | 0241/91310 | www.eurogress-aachen.de.
Don’t leave Aachen without stocking up on the traditional local gingerbread, Aachener Printen. Each bakery in town offers its own varieties (topped with whole or crushed nuts, milk or dark chocolate, etc.), and guards its recipe like a state secret.
Café Van den Daele.
Some of the best Aachener Printen (gingerbread) can be found here, at one of Aachen’s most beloved cafés, as can another tasty Aachen specialty, Reisfladen (a sort of tart filled with milk rice and often topped with fruit—pears, apricots, or cherries). Also known as Alt Aachener Kaffeestuben, the café is worth a visit if for nothing more than its atmosphere and tempting aromas. They can also mail their goods to you (or others) back home. | Büchel 18 | 0241/35724 | www.van-den-daele.de.
47 km (29 miles) north of Köln.
Düsseldorf, the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, may suffer by comparison to Köln’s remarkable skyline, but the elegant city has more than enough charm—and money—to keeps its own self-esteem high. By contrast to Cologne’s boisterous, working-class charm, Düsseldorf is known as one of the country’s richest cities, with an extravagant lifestyle that epitomizes the economic success of postwar Germany. Because 80% of Düsseldorf was destroyed in World War II, the city has since been more or less rebuilt from the ground up—and that includes re-creating landmarks of long ago and restoring a medieval riverside quarter.
At the confluence of the Rhine and Düssel rivers, this dynamic city started as a small fishing town. The name means “village on the Düssel,” but obviously this Dorf is a village no more. Raised expressways speed traffic past towering glass-and-steel structures; within them, glass-enclosed shopping malls showcase the finest clothes, furs, jewelry, and other goods that money can buy.
Getting Here and Around
Trains connect Düsseldorf to the Rhineland region’s main cities; a trip from Köln takes under 25 minutes. The impressive Flughafen Düsseldorf, Germany’s third-largest airport, serves more than 180 destinations.
Düsseldorf Bus Tours.
Hop-on, hop-off bus tours of Düsseldorf depart from the main train station at 10 and every half hour thereafter (until 4 on weekdays, 5 weekends) from late March to early November; hourly 10 to 4 from early November to late December; and at 11, 1, and 3 from late December to late March. Tickets can be purchased on the bus or at the information center | Düsseldorf | €15.
Old Town Walking Tour.
A walking tour of the Old Town leaves from the Altstadt tourist-info center (Marktstrasse/Rheinstrasse corner) daily from April to October, Sunday to Thursday at 3, Friday at 3 and 4, and Saturday at 2. From November to March, tours are on Friday and Saturday at 3, and Sunday at 11. | Düsseldorf | €11.
Discounts and Deals
The DüsseldorfCard costs €9 for 24 hours, €14 for 48 hours, and €19 for 72 hours, and allows free public transportation and reduced admission to museums, theaters, and even boat tours on the Rhine.
Düsseldorf Tourist-Information. | Marktstr. 6 | 0211/172-020 | www.duesseldorf-tourismus.de.
Altstadt (Old Town).
This party-hearty district has been dubbed “the longest bar in the word” by locals. Narrow alleys thread their way to some 300 restaurants and taverns. All crowd into the 1-square-km (½-square-mile) area between the Rhine and Heinrich-Heine-Allee. When the weather cooperates, the area really does seem like one big sidewalk café. | Düsseldorf.
Fodor’s Choice | Königsallee.
Düsseldorf’s main shopping avenue epitomizes the city’s affluence, lined as it is with designer boutiques and stores. Known as the Kö, this wide, double boulevard is divided by an ornamental waterway fed by the River Düssel. Rows of chestnut trees line the Kö, shading a string of sidewalk cafés. Beyond the Triton Fountain, at the street’s north end, begins a series of parks and gardens. In these patches of green you can sense a joie de vivre that might be surprising in a city devoted to big business. | Düsseldorf.
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (Art Collection of North Rhine-Westphalia).
This important fixture on Düsseldorf’s art scene is split into two parts, plus an installation space. Behind the sleek, polished black stone facade of K20 is a treasure trove of art (kunst, hence the K) of the 20th century, including works from masters like Picasso, Klee, and Richter. Within the more conservative 19th-century architecture of K21 is edgier fare—international art since about 1980, including the works of Thomas Ruff and Nam June Paik. Rounding things off is the quirky, modern Schmela Haus (1967), a former commercial gallery, which the museum uses as a space for special events and exhibitions. | K20, Grabbepl. 5 | 0211/838-1204 | www.kunstsammlung.de | K20: €12; K21: €12; or €18 for both (prices vary); free entry 1st Wed. of month, 6-10; Schmela Haus: free | Tues.-Fri. 10-6, weekends 11-6; 1st Wed. of each month 10-10 | K21, Ständehausstr. 1.
Just outside Düsseldorf, the Düssel River forms a valley, called the Neanderthal, where the bones of a Stone Age relative of modern man were found. The impressive museum, built at the site of the discovery in the suburb of Mettmann, includes models of the original discovery, replicas of cave drawings, and life-size models of Neanderthal Man. Many scientists think he was a different species of human; short, stocky, and with a sloping forehead. The bones were found in 1856 by workers quarrying the limestone cliffs to get flux for blast furnaces. | Talstr. 300 | Mettmann | 02104/97970 | www.neanderthal.de | Permanent exhibition €9, special exhibitions €7, both €11 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Traffic is routed away from the river and underneath this pedestrian strip, which is lined by chic shopping arcades and cafés. Joggers, rollerbladers, and folks out for a stroll make much use of the promenade as well. | Düsseldorf.
This museum and archive houses significant manuscripts of the German poet and man of letters, Heinrich Heine. Part of the complex was once the residence of the composer Robert Schumann. | Bilkerstr. 12-14 | 0211/899-5571 | www.duesseldorf.de/heineinstitut | €4 | Tues.-Fri. and Sun. 11-5, Sat. 1-5.
The oldest remaining parts of the Hofgarten date back to 1769, when it was transformed into Germany’s first public park. The promenade leading to what was once a hunting palace, Schloss Jägerhof, was all the rage in late-18th-century Düsseldorf before the park was largely destroyed by Napoléon’s troops. Today it’s an oasis of greenery at the heart of downtown. | Düsseldorf.
This stylish, revamped district is a mix of late-19th-century warehouses and ultramodern restaurants, bars, and shops: it’s one of Europe’s masterpieces in urban redevelopment. Surrounding the historic commercial harbor, now occupied by yachts and leisure boats, are the many media companies that have made this area their home. On the riverbank you’ll find Frank Gehry’s Neuer Zollhof, a particularly striking ensemble of three organic-looking high-rises. The best way to tackle the buzzing architecture is to take a stroll down the promenade. | Düsseldorf.
Museum Kunst Palast.
This impressive art museum lies at the northern extremity of the Hofgarten, close to the Rhine. Its excellent German expressionist collection (Beckmann, Kirchner, Nolde, Macke, among others) makes it worth a trip, as does its collection of glass art—one of the largest in Europe. | Ehrenhof 4-5 | 0211/899-2460 | www.smkp.de | Permanent collection €5, special exhibition prices vary | Tues.-Sun. 11-6 (to 9 Thurs.).
This Gothic church is near the palace tower on Burgplatz. Its spire became distorted because unseasoned wood was used in its construction. The Vatican elevated the 14th-century brick church to a basilica minor (small cathedral) in 1974 in recognition of its role in church history. Built in the 13th century, with additions from 1394, St. Lambertus contains the tomb of William the Rich and a graceful late-Gothic tabernacle. | Stiftspl. 7 | www.lambertuspfarre.de | Free.
At the far-east edge of the Hofgarten, this baroque structure is more a combination town house and country lodge than a palace. It houses the Goethe-Museum, featuring original manuscripts, first editions, personal correspondence, and other memorabilia of Germany’s greatest writer. A collection of Meissen porcelain, the Sammlung Ernst Schneider Collection, is also here . | Jacobistr. 2 | 0211/899-6262 | www.goethe-museum.com | €4 | Tues.-Fri. and Sun. 11-5, Sat. 1-5.
Schlossturm (Palace Tower).
A squat tower is all that remains of the palace built by the Berg family, which ruled Düsseldorf for more than five centuries. The tower also houses the SchifffahrtMuseum, which charts 2,000 years of Rhine boatbuilding and navigation. | Burgpl. 30 | 0211/899-4195 | www.freunde-schifffahrtmuseum.de | €3 | Tues.-Sun. 11-6.
WHERE TO EAT
Berens am Kai.
$$$$ | FRENCH | Set in the redeveloped Düsseldorf harbor, this glass-and-steel building with ceiling-to-floor windows looks more like a modern office complex than the sleek restaurant it is. Head here for creative French recipes, a wine list with vintages from around the world, and tempting desserts—it’s a good option if you’re hankering for a change from old-style German cooking. The steep, expense-account-ready prices are warranted by exquisite cuisine, refined service, and the great setting with magnificent views of the harbor and the city, which are particularly stunning at night. | Average main: €40 | Kaistr. 16 | 0211/300-6750 | www.berensamkai.de | Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | Reservations essential.
$ | FRENCH | Weekend brunch (served until 4 pm) can get busy at this French-inspired artists’ café on a quiet square one block from the riverfront. Otherwise, the bistro—with its big windows and walls plastered with old movie and museum posters—is an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the busy Altstadt. The word Zicke (“nanny goat”) is a common insult for a moody woman, but whatever your feelings, this is a friendly place to stop in for a drink or to try the simple French-Italian cooking. | Average main: €14 | Bäckerstr. 5a | 0211/327-800 | www.bistro-zicke.de | No credit cards.
Brauerei Zur Uel.
$ | GERMAN | A nontraditional brew house, the Uel is the popular hangout for Düsseldorf’s students. The basic menu consists of soups, salads, and pastas; the ingredients are fresh and the portions are generous. What seems like every cultural and political event in the city is advertised in the entry hall. | Average main: €13 | Ratingerstr. 16 | 0211/325-369 | www.zuruel.de | No credit cards.
Fodor’s Choice | Im Schiffchen.
$$$$ | FRENCH | Although Im Schiffchen is out of the way, it’s also one of Germany’s best restaurants and more than worth the trip. This is grande luxe, with cooking turned into fine art through the skills of chef Jean-Claude Bourgueil and his staff. The restaurant Enzo im Schiffchen on the ground floor features lighter Continental fare created by the same chef but at lower prices. There are more than 1,100 wines in the cellar, many available by the glass. | Average main: €48 | Kaiserswerther Markt 9 | 0211/401-050 | www.im-schiffchen.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch. | Reservations essential.
$ | GERMAN | Among beer buffs, Düsseldorf is famous for its Altbier, so called because of the old-fashioned brewing method. The mellow and malty copper-color brew is produced by eight breweries in town. This tavern, which brews its own beer, provides the perfect atmosphere for drinking it. The beer is poured straight out of polished oak barrels and served with hearty local food by busy waiters in long blue aprons. The food offered is mainly snacks, with a small selection of entrées. After dinner, try the bar’s tasty house liquor, called “Stickum”—a sort of beer brandy. | Average main: €13 | Bergerstr. 1 | 0211/866-990 | www.uerige.de | No credit cards.
WHERE TO STAY
$$$$ | HOTEL | The original, two-centuries-old Breidenbacher Hof was rebuilt from the ground up in 2008 to create this opulent, high-tech establishment, which added a luxurious new 6,500-square-foot spa to its basement in 2014. The hotel’s got it all—even an in-house plastic surgeon, with discreet recovery rooms on a special floor just outside its procedure area. Gadget bugs will love adjusting the room temperature and closing the curtains via a bedside digital console. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, though the hotel may be too flashy for fans of its old-world predecessor. Pros: luxurious; very indulgent staff; great location on the Kö. Cons: expensive. | Rooms from: €360 | Königsallee 11 | 0211/1609-0909 | www.capellahotels.com/dusseldorf | 85 rooms, 21 suites | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | Besides bright, good-size rooms, the true strength of this modern hotel is its location, near the market in the Altstadt. After a generous buffet breakfast you can quickly reach either the Rhine or the Kö with a three-block walk. Pros: right in the Altstadt; free Wi-Fi. Cons: style is a bit dated. | Rooms from: €129 | Benratherstr. 7a | 0211/13050 | www.carat-hotel-duesseldorf.de | 71 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
$$ | HOTEL | Steps away from Altstadt action and the Rhine, this small hotel on a cobblestone road offers simple comfort and a surprising amount of quiet. The amenities are few, but the staff is accommodating and the small rooms are all tastefully furnished. The hotel mostly has single rooms for business travelers, but these beds can easily sleep two people, so couples who don’t need much space can often share a single room for a cheaper rate. Pros: unbeatable location; free Wi-Fi. Cons: small rooms; no parking at the hotel; caters to business travelers. | Rooms from: €130 | Bäckerg. 1 | 0211/866-800 | www.hotel-orangerie-mcs.de | No credit cards | 27 rooms | Breakfast.
$$$ | RENTAL | Miraculously quiet despite its central location on the edge of the Hofgarten and at the beginning of the Königsallee, this old hotel is anything but stodgy, especially after its €10 million facelift in 2013. The soaring ceilings add to the spaciousness of the guest rooms, each individually decorated in a restrained, elegant style. The pampering continues at the breakfast buffet, served in the Menuett restaurant, where champagne and smoked salmon are appropriate starters for a shopping expedition on the Kö. Pros: central but quiet. Cons: expensive. | Rooms from: €225 | Königsallee 1a | 0211/13810 | www.steigenberger.de | 119 rooms, 11 suites | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
The Altstadt is a landscape of pubs, dance clubs, ancient brewery houses, and jazz clubs in the vicinity of the Marktplatz and along cobblestone streets named Bolker, Kurze, Flinger, and Mühlen. These places may be crowded, but some are very atmospheric. The local favorite for nightlife is the Hafen neighborhood. Its restaurants and bars cater to the youngish professionals who work and party there.
Fodor’s Choice | Deutsche Oper am Rhein.
The city’s highly regarded opera company and ballet troupe are showcased here. | Heinrich-Heine-Allee 16a | 0211/892-5211 | www.operamrhein.de.
Classical and pop concerts, symposia, film, and international theater are presented at the Robert-Schumann-Saal. | Ehrenhof 4-5 | 0211/899-0200 | www.smkp.de.
A 30-minute ride outside Düsseldorf by car, train, or S-bahn (from the Hauptbahnhof) will get you to the industrial city of Wuppertal, whose main claim to fame is its transit system of suspended trains that often run directly over the River Wupper, the Schwebebahn. It’s also well known for the Tanztheater Wuppertal , the world-famous dance-theater company of the choreographer Pina Bausch (1940-2009). | Kurt-Drees-Str. 4 | Wuppertal | 0202/563-4253 | www.pina-bausch.de.
The finest concert hall in Germany after Berlin’s Philharmonie is a former planetarium on the edge of the Hofgarten. It’s the home of the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, which plays from September to June. | Ehrenhof 1 | 0211/899-6123 | www.tonhalle-duesseldorf.de.
For antiques, go to the area around Hohe Strasse. The east side of the Königsallee is lined with some of Germany’s trendiest boutiques, grandest jewelers, and most extravagant furriers.
This shopping arcade houses clothing stores like Eickhoff, a Düsseldorf institution with more than 10,000 square feet of very high-end goods, many straight from the runways of Paris and Milan. | Königsallee 28-30.
High-end boutiques and half a dozen restaurants line this luxurious two-story mall. | Königsallee 60 | www.koe-galerie.com.
At one end of Kö Galerie, this mall caters to normal budgets, with stores such as H&M and Habitat. | Schadowstr. 11 | www.schadow-arkaden.com.